Names for the Holiday: Passover, Pesach, the Festival of Our Freedom, the Festival of Spring
When It Starts: 15 Nissan on the Hebrew calendar; sundown on April 19, 2008
How Long It Lasts: Eight days (seven in Israel)
What It Commemorates: The miraculous Exodus of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, considered one of the most important moments in the development of the Jewish people.
Customs and Laws:
- To prepare for the holiday, houses are cleaned thoroughly and dishes and utensils are replaced with those used on Passover only.
- Bread and other leavened food (chametz) is forbidden and removed from the home before Passover begins. Many Jews will eat only food specifically marked as "Kosher for Passover."
- Matzah, a flat bread made just of flour and water, is eaten.
- Work is prohibited on the first two and last two days (in Israel, the first and last days only), when rules akin to those followed on the Jewish Sabbath are followed.
- In Temple times, Passover was one of three annual pilgrimage festivals to Jerusalem. The Seder Ritual: The seder is held on the first night or two (depending on custom) of Passover. Some characteristics of this ritual meal are:
- The story of the Exodus is retold, using a book called a "Haggadah."
- Bitter herbs are eaten to recall the pain of slavery, and greens to celebrate the onset of spring. Other foods include haroseth--a fruit, nut, and wine mixture--and of course, matzah.
- The youngest at the table recites the Four Questions.
- Four cups of wine are consumed.
- A festive meal is eaten.
- For more on the seder table, explore Beliefnet's virtual seder plate.