Passover or Pesach, is an annual festival, and arguably one of the most observed within the Jewish religion. It is a holiday filled with ups and downs; seeing family, huge dinners, but also massive restrictions on what they are and are not allowed to eat.

In the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, Passover was observed as a spring festival to celebrate the first grain, Barley, ripening in Israel. However, since the Exodus, in which the Israelites escaped from slavery in Egypt, the festival has taken on new significance. It now also widely commemorates the freeing of the Israelites, and the ten plagues brought over Egypt, the last of which, the death of Egyptian first-borns, finally prompted the Pharaoh to release them.

In the Torah (the Jews’ main religious text), it is said that Jews observe eight days of Pesach, from the 15th of Nisan, in the Hebrew calendar. On the first night (and the second night, in countries outside Israel), it is customary to have a ritual dinner, or a Seder, in which families join, sing songs, pray, and eat traditional food such as matzo ball soup and roast chicken. There is also a large plate called the Seder plate, on which there are six foods eaten during the duration of the Seder, all signifying different aspects of Pesach. For example, an egg, representing the circle of life and spring, and bitter herbs, which represent the bitterness of slavery.

There are also strict dietary restrictions Jews observe throughout the eight days of Pesach. Due to the Israelites’ 40 years walking through the desert, natural leavening grains, or chametz, are forbidden to be eaten throughout Passover. These grains are wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt, which, when combined with water, ferment and rise. The rules on the consumption of these grains are so strict, that Jews are told to completely clean their kitchens to ensure there is no chametz in the house before the beginning of Passover. Additionally, some Jews opt to have a completely separate set of kitchen items, especially for Passover.

The huge amount of effort Jews put into preparing for the festival, and the mild annoyance many feel throughout due to the dietary restrictions ensures that the meaning behind the festival is always at the forefront of their minds.


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