How Is the Passover Holiday Celebrated?

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Traditionally, the Passover holiday is celebrated by avoiding leaven breads, drinking wine, eating Matzah and bitter herbs and retelling the story of Exodus. The Passover holiday takes place over eight days in early spring.

Historically, Passover takes place during the month of Nissan in the Hebrew calendar. In Hebrew, Passover is called "Pesach." The dates of the holiday vary annually according to the Hebrew calendar, but they generally fall between the end of March and beginning of April. In Hebrew, the phrase "Passover" means to "pass over." It refers to a time in ancient history when G_d (written this way by observant Jews out of reverence for Deity) caused the angel of death to pass over the homes of Jewish citizens who spread the blood of a lamb over their doorway, but for those who did not, including the Egyptians, the firstborn in the household died on that inaugural Passover evening.

The origins of Passover arise from the freedom of Jews after being subjected to decades' worth of slavery at the hands of Egyptian pharaohs. Jewish tradition holds that, in seeing the horrific conditions that Jews faced, G_d sent Moses with a message to the Pharaoh that said, "Send forth My people, so that they may serve Me," according to But Pharaoh refused to head that message. As a result, G_d set upon Egypt ten devastating plagues, which harmed the Egyptians and affected their livelihoods by destroying their crops and livestock. During the last plague, Pharaoh's own son died, finally convincing the leader to set the Israelites free. The Israelites then left Egypt and journeyed to Mount Sinai to celebrate their freedom as G_d's chosen people.

Although Jews consume a variety of lavish foods during Passover, they strictly forgo chametz, which is any type of leavened bread. Consumption of chametz is traditionally forbidden from the midday before Passover begins to the end of the holiday. Deeply religious Jews, such as Conservative and Orthodox Jews, go to great lengths to remove chametz entirely from their homes. Chametz is found in many types of breads and baked goods, such as cookies, cake, pasta, cereal and alcoholic beverages. As many processed foods contain chametz, Jews read the labels first and only purchase products that are expressly made without chametz. Instead of chametz, Jews consume matzah during Passover, which is a special type of unleavened bread. Matzah is historically consumed on two nights of the Seder. It is optional during the remainder of the holiday.

The Seder is a central component of the holiday. It is a family-centric event that takes place during the first two nights of Passover. The two Seder celebrations have 15 steps. They are large feasts laden with rituals and centered around the family. Each Seder consists of eating matzah, consuming bitter herbs, drinking four cups of wine or grape juice and reciting the Haggadah, which elaborates on the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Children are an important part of Seder, and they're expected to participate in Seder customs and traditions alongside adults. Traditionally, the youngest child recites the four questions, which seek to understand what distinguishes the Seder from other nights, during the dinner. Children also partake in a search for the afikomen, which is a piece of matzah hidden during the evening. Whoever finds the matzah gets money or a prize.