Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan (March or April in Gregorian calendar); the first month of the Hebrew calendar’s festival year according to the Hebrew Bible. These holy days and festivals commemorate the biblical event of the Hebrews’ escape from enslavement in Egypt.
In the narrative of the Exodus, the Bible tells that God inflicted ten plagues upon the Egyptians before Pharaoh would release his Hebrew slaves. The Hebrews were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord passed over these homes—hence the term “passover”.
When Pharaoh freed the Hebrews, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread to rise. In commemoration, for the duration of Passover, no leavened bread is eaten, for which reason, Matzoh (flat unleavened bread) is the primary symbol of the holiday.
This year, Passover begins on Monday evening, 29 March and four days later, it is Good Friday and then Easter Sunday, the day when Jesus was said to have been resurrected. Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar.
Today, while Easter is one of the holiest periods of the Christian calendar, everyone is welcome to eat chocolate bunnies and have Easter egg hunts to celebrate the holiday with no religious connotations.
Passover is celebrated by the Seder, or order of the meal and reading of the Haggadah, the story of Passover and the service. Each family member and guest play a part in this service and it has been ever thus in recorded history.
In the European tradition, the seder meal begins with gefilte fish, then goes on to chicken soup with matzoh balls, then roast chicken, beef brisket, a market garden of vegetables, and concludes with light-as-air sponge cake, fruit and tea.
But there are traditional seder meals besides those nurtured in Europe, such as Asian, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern traditional seders.
In New York, a most interesting seder is being hosted by Mia-Rut. She can be frequently found writing about cooking and eating on Jew and the Carrot [www.jcarrot.org], and Jewcy [www.jewcy.com]. Though she fancies herself ‘an accidental writer’, Mia-Rut is currently completing a book on her conversion to Judaism through food entitled “Eating My Way Towards Judaism.”
Mia-Rut says, “the menu will be a meat kosher-for-passover-style meal adhering to a Sephardi definition of kitnyot. We will be starting at 6:00 p.m. with a fun and inclusive Haggadah, so even if you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry because everyone can participate and if nothing else, the food will be great.
She has chosen a delectable menu:
“Gefilte” fish (for those who hate the smell of fish)
Vegan-friendly Matzoh Ball Soup
Preserved Lemon Lamb Tagine
Syrian “Crusty” Rice
Winter Vegetable Ratatouille
Sweet and Sour Stuffed Cabbage
Duck Bacon Collard Greens
Chocolate Quinoa Pudding with Blood Orange Sorbet
Honey Tahini Cake
That’s one Passover Seder dinner I am sorry to miss.