Passover Traditions Around the World

Every year, the Jewish community celebrates Passover to mark the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.  In the Hebrew calendar, Passover begins at sunset on the 15th of Nisan and lasts 8 full days. (The Seder, or traditional Passover service and meal, is held on the first and second nights.) Although the corresponding Western date changes every year, it usually starts in March or April. Passover is a time for both celebration and reflection, and as is the case with most holidays of any faith, traditions vary around the world.

In Poland, Hasidic Jews use their living rooms to recreate the crossing of the Red Sea. Once they reach the seventh day, each Jewish family starts the reenactment by pouring water on the floor and hiking up their coats. As they walk through the water, they name each town that they would have passed during the crossing. In addition, they also give thanks to God for helping them reach Poland.

The Jewish people who live in Afghanistan have a unique tradition involving whips. During the holiday, they use scallions to whip themselves gently. The whipping process symbolizes the way Jewish people were treated by Egyptian slave drivers. Many Afghan Jews now live in Queens, New York; so, this unique holiday tradition is expanding.

Jewish celebrants in Gibraltar crush a small section of a brick into their charoset – a sweet dish of diced apples, dates, and spices served during the Seder feast and used to symbolize the mortar used in construction by Jewish slaves in Egypt. Sometimes, people also add olives to the Seder plate (shown in the photo above) to represent their wishes for hope in the Middle East. Nowadays, some activists add an orange to the middle of their plate to symbolize the need for better inclusion of women, gays and lesbians into Jewish rituals.

During the Seder feast in Spain, Sephardic Jews have a unique tradition involving the first-born son. Each family has their first-born son consume a roasted egg. The son does this to show appreciation for being spared during the 10th plague, the slaying of the first-born.

Wherever you are, a Seder is a wonderful way to celebrate Passover, or to learn about it for the the first time. Let us know how you plan to celebrate Passover by leaving a comment!

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