About the Celebration of Passover

Passover is a Jewish holiday celebrated around the world from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan (April 10–18, 2017). It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh.

The Matzah

“The dough, which they brought out of Egypt, they baked into unleavened bread, because they were driven out from Egypt and they were not able to delay, and they had not prepared any provisions.” (Exodus 12:39)

Because the Israelites had to leave Egypt in a hurry, the bread had no time to become leavened.  This is the reason why Jewish people eat this flat bread called Matzah and observe the interdiction to not eat anything called “Chametz,” or any food product made from wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt that has come into contact with water and been allowed to ferment and “rise.”  Because it is associated with pride, it is important to complete also a mind cleanse: leaving the pride (chametz) and welcoming humility (matzah).

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The Seder

It is traditional for Jewish families to gather on the first night of Passover (first two nights outside Israel) for a special dinner called a seder, the Hebrew word for “order” which refers to the very specific order of the ritual. During this meal, the story of the Exodus from Egypt is retold. Four cups of wine are consumed at various stages in the narrative; the longer it is, the better!

The seder plate

This holiday is full of symbols, meanings and allusions. One of them is the setting of a plate with:

1. Matzah for the rush.

2. Charoset: Typically, a mixture of apples, nuts, and wine. It is intended to remind us of the bricks and mortar which the Israelites made when they were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. Its taste is sweet, reminding us of the freedom of Israelites ancestors and the freedom we enjoy today.

3. Egg: The egg serves as a symbol of life. The Passover falls during springtime, when there is a rebirth in nature. Similarly, Passover commemorates the Jewish people’s transition from slavery to liberation. The egg also reminds us of the wholeness of the earth, and the cyclical nature of time.

4. Karpas (green vegetable): Parsley, lettuce or celery are perfect. Karpas is a symbol of rebirth and new life. It reminds us of all things that grow, and encourages us to think about the potential we all have to grow. It is traditional to dip the karpas into salt water that symbolizes the tears of the people’s struggle to be freed from slavery.

5. Maror (bitter herb): Horseradish is often used. The maror symbolizes the bitterness of slavery and the suffering of Jewish ancestors throughout the ages.

6. Shankbone (zeroah, in Hebrew): At the time, men were shepherds relying on sheep for their survival. There was a springtime feast to celebrate the birth of lambs, and the shankbone on seder plates symbolizes that feast.

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The role of flowers during Passover

During the seder, a text is read or sung. It says “Once we were slaves, now we are free.” It is a ritual for some families, especially those of Jewish Moroccan descent, to carry a flower bouquet on the table during this song and to pass it over every guest’s head.

Passover is one of the happiest holidays for Jewish people because it means renewal and freedom. Because it celebrates the spring too, houses are decorated with flowers to bring even more happiness.

Empty Vase wishes a Pesach Kasher V’Sameach to all those who celebrate!

Passover at Empty Vase

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