Passover is a springtime holiday marking the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt and celebrating their freedom from slavery. This 8-day festival is a joyous occasion observed with many special foods and customs, beginning with a ceremonial dinner called the Seder. During Passover, only unleavened breads, such as matzoh, may be eaten.
The book of Exodus relates the story of the enslavement and eventual freedom of the Hebrews in Egypt. Because of their enslavement, God decreed 10 plagues upon the Egyptians, culminating in the killing of all firstborn sons. To exempt Hebrew families from the plague, God instructed them to mark their doorways with the blood of a lamb, so that the spirit of the Lord would know to "pass over" their homes, and spare their firstborn children. This is how the holiday came to be known as Passover.
When the Egyptian Pharaoh subsequently freed the Hebrews, they left so quickly that there was no time to wait for the bread to rise. This is why no unleavened bread is eaten during Passover.
Celebrated for the first two nights of Passover, the Seder is a special dinner and ritual retelling of the story of the Jews' exodus from Egypt based on a sacred text called the Haggadah. It follows a careful order of foods (the word "seder" means order in Hebrew).
The Seder meal is dividing into 15 parts, beginning with a blessing. The Seder isn't so much a meal as a narrative; only small amounts of ritual foods are consumed. Some of the foods eaten during the Seder include wine, parsley or celery, breads, matzoh and bitter herbs.
Share your celebration
Inviting non-Jews to your Seder meal is a great way to share your traditions. Give each guest a copy of the Haggadah or explanation of the foods served and their symbolic meaning so they can follow along.