Passover celebration ideas
Passover is a Jewish holiday that is celebrated in honor of God ending the ancient Egyptians' rule over Israelite slaves. Passover was named in remembrance of God "passing over" the houses of the Jewish people during the plague that killed Egyptian firstborn sons. Passover lasts for seven days in Israel and eight days in other countries, and begins on Nissan 15th of the Jewish calendar (varying between the months of March and April). There are several significant traditions, recipes and gifts that are associated with the Passover celebration.
Because the Jews were forced to leave ancient Egypt before their bread could rise, leavened products are not to be consumed or used during Passover. Known in Hebrew as chametz, all forms of leavened grain products must be removed from Jewish households at Passover. A type of spring cleaning, during which all traces of chametz are eliminated thoroughly, takes place in the 30 days prior to the start of Passover. This practice is symbolic of removing "puffiness" (arrogance) from the soul. During Passover, an unleavened bread known as matzah is eaten.
The Fast of the Firstborn occurs the day before Passover begins. All firstborn Jewish males participate in a brief fast to commemorate the firstborn males who were spared during the Egyptian plague.
The Passover seder is a meal during which the history and reasons for celebrating the holiday are discussed. The seder takes place on the first night of Passover in Israel, and on the first two nights of Passover in other nations. A Hebrew text called the haggadah is read throughout the Passover dinner, and blessings are given.
Work is not permitted on the first two days and last two days of Passover.
Matzah, made with water and flour, is a bread that is cooked quickly and does not rise. Matzah is an important component of the Passover seder and has a specific blessing devoted to it. There are many ways to use matzah in Passover recipes:
- Matzah flour is finely ground for cookies and cakes.
- Matzah meal, used as a substitute for bread crumbs, is coarsely ground.
- Matzah farfel, or little chunks of unleavened bread, is used for noodles.
- Full-sized matzah is prepared in 10-inch squares.
Charoset is a mixture of cinnamon, nuts, wine and apples. It is eaten along with a bitter vegetable during the seder in honor of the Jewish slaves.
Meats eaten during the seder include gefilte fish, chicken and beef brisket.
Passover gift baskets are often exchanged between family and friends. These baskets can include flowers, chocolates, nuts and candy. Gifts for Jewish children include finger puppets and games.