The Jewish holiday Passover is going on this week, but how much do people know about its deep-seated traditions?
Passover is the celebration of the Jewish people’s escape from Egyptian slavery.
Several special dietary restrictions take place during the week-long celebration to help- remind people what life as a slave was like and why they should be so grateful. I was graciously invited to the home of the Osovsky’s, a local Jewish family, to witness the Seder, the meal eaten to start the holiday.
During this time of year you will find lots of tags in the supermarket exclaiming that an item is kosher for Passover. Kosher means able to eat under ceremonial laws. During the rest of the year it means that you can’t cook meat and dairy in the same pots, or eat meat that is not prepared specially.
During Passover you can only eat bread without any yeast in it. This “bread” is called Matzoh and it’s consistency is that of a cracker. The entire Seder is focused around the Matzoh. It is referenced to several times and eventually one piece is hidden for the young children to find.
Another centerpiece of the Seder is the Seder Plate which contains six items: Horseradish (called “bitter herb” and used to symbolize the bitterness of slavery), Charoset (a sweet mixture of dates, apples and raisins symbolizing the mortar used for the bricks that the Jewish people were forced to build with), parsley (to symbolize spring), a roasted egg (to symbolize new beginnings), a roasted lamb shank bone (a reminder of the animal sacrifices that were performed), and romaine lettuce (another bitter herb). These items stay at the center of the table and each item is held up with it’s mean explained by the host throughout the meal.
The service itself is very loose depending on the family that you are spending it with. Some Seders are done entirely in Hebrew while others are done in English or a mixture of both.
However, there is one constant among all Seders; four full glasses of wine are expected to be drunk throughout the evening (by all those of legal drinking age of course). Boisterous conversation, red wine, and laughter still flow long after the Seder is over. That is because, even after all the horrible stories of the ten plagues and the gruesome treatment of the Jewish slaves, this is a celebration of life.