What Is Passover?
By Cara J. Stevens
Passover is one of the most celebrated Jewish holidays. Find out the facts behind matzo Seders, and the Afikomen, and learn crafts, activities and recipes to create a fun family holiday. If you have Four Questions (or more) read on for the answers!
Why Do We Celebrate Passover?
Passover, or Pesach, is the first of the major Jewish festivals mentioned in the Bible. Passover celebrates God freeing the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, led by the prophet Moses. The story of Moses and of Passover can be found in the Bible's Book of Exodus.
Each year during this holiday, families gather to retell the story of Passover and renew its message of hope, redemption and faith.
When Is Passover?
In most of the world, Passover lasts eight days. It begins at sundown on the 15th of Nisan, and ends on the 22nd of Nisan. In Israel, Passover lasts only seven days.
The Jewish calendar is based on the appearance of the crescent moon and used primarily for biblical holidays. It has a set of 12 months with leap years adding an extra month every two to three years to account for the solar year. Because of this, dates in the standard Gregorian calendar vary widely each year.
Long ago when dates and time could not be tracked precisely, an extra day was added to most Jewish celebrations to give people a chance of celebrating the holiday on the correct day.
All Jewish holidays begin the evening before the date specified on most calendars. This is because a Jewish "day" begins and ends at sunset, rather than at midnight.
Which Are The Most Important Days of the Holiday?
The first two and last two days of Passover are considered the most important. These are observed as “Full Festival” days, with no work, special prayers and holiday meals. The intervening days are festival weekdays, or business as usual. Throughout the holiday, no leavened bread or foods are to be eaten.
The first two days (only the first day in Israel) are celebrated by observant and reform Jews worldwide with a Seder, or holiday meal. The final two days (only the last day in Israel) are observed with special prayers.
Cara J. Stevens is a freelance writer.