Pesach festival, one of the biggest festivals in Hebrew calendar, is celebrated all across the globe by Jewish community to commemorate their freedom from Egyptians 3000 years ago. Sephardi Jews, also known as Spanish and Portuguese Jews, have their own unique customs and tradition of celebrating Pesach festival. Sephardic Jews have distinct way of celebrating Pesach festival that include observing fast, eating Kosher such as lentils, soybean, rice, millets, corn, string beans, chickpeas, split peas and green peas. Sephardic Jews generally use Olive oil for preparing all Pesach foods. Mimulim, Huevos Haminados lamb or fish sprinkled with fruits, leek soup, kibbe ib gheraz, okra, and green beans are some of the typical Sephardic traditional dishes cooked during Pesach festival. A syrup-drenched cake called tishpishti ,Bisquitte pan d'Espagne (sponge cake), torta de muez or nut cake and mustachudos or nut crescents are served as desserts during the Pesach festival. Sephardic Jews recite the Four Questions mentioned in Haggadah or book of Exodus at the Seder table as part of their customs.
Passover Celebration In Spain
Pesach in Spain has its own unique tradition and customs. The Sephardi Jews celebrate Pesach with lot of religious fervor and gaiety.
Passover in Spain
- The word 'sephardi' is derived from the Hebrew word 'Sefarad', which means Spain. Hence, all Jews belonging to the Sephardic race trace their roots to the Jews of Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Morocco and other parts of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. It is believed that the Spanish Jews were the first to prepare Pan de Semita, or semitic bread, for Passover festival which is now being adopted by Mexicans and Mexican Americans along the Texas border. Pan de Samita is unleavened bread made from flour, water and olive oil. This same bread is also prepared in the deep south of Italy, Calabria, known as 'pane azimo'.
- The Spanish people dress themselves in white clothes for the Seder whereas the leader wears a white caftan or robe. The Seder table is usually garnished with traditional Passover dishes such as karpas (spring vegetable) celery or parsley dipped in vinegar, maror (bitter herbs) and Haroset, a fruit-nut paste, made from exotic pantries of the Mediterranean namely dates, apricots, oranges, pistachios, pine nuts and coconuts. Huevos haminado, eggs slow-roasted in onionskins, is another special dish generally cooked for the Seder meal.
- The main course includes roast lamb, baked dishes of matzoh, minas, meat and vegetables. For the desserts, the matzoh meal is replaced with ground almonds or walnuts in Spain. They are flavored with orange depicting the scent of Spain. Everyone at the table is handed over a spring onion. While singing the Dayenu, the Passover song, everyone picks up the onion and whips the wrist of the person sitting next to him/her. The sound of the onion stems so generated represents the sounds of the whips that the Israeli slaves had gone through. A person from the gathering is selected as 'Pharaoh' who wears a crown and moves from one person to another witnessing the whipping of the onions.
- Sephardic Jews recite Haggadah in Hebrew and local language or Sephardic dialect called Ladino. They have the customs of lighting seven candles on the eve of Pesach Seder which is being done by the lady of the household. They recite 10 Plagues of Passover over the Seder meal. The leader at the Seder table trickles a bit of wine from a special cup of wine into a bowl with each recitation of 10 plagues. As a symbolic gesture, the leader then washes his or her hands to cleanse himself /herself from the 10 plagues. At the end of Pesach festival, the Turkish and Moroccan Sephardic Jews observe Mimouna or post-Passover celebration. Mimouna symbolizes celebration of freedom, togetherness, friendship and community values. During Mimouna celebration, the Turkish Jews throw coins, candy and grass to children who eagerly await them.
Sephardic Pesach festival with its unique customs and traditions reflects exotic and rich Jewish culture that has been thriving for centuries on the Iberian Peninsula in Spain and Portugal. So, pamper yourself with delectable cuisine, songs and music of Sephardic Jews this Pesach festival. Bring extra zing to your Pesach holiday by following Sephardic Pesach tradition.