Pesach, one of the biggest festivals in Jewish calendar, is celebrated by Jewish community all across the globe to commemorate Jews' freedom from oppression and slavery under the Egyptians Pharaoh Ramses II over 3000 years ago. Pesach festival begins on 15th day of the Nisan month of the Hebrew calendar. The festival pays careful attention to the kind of delicacies served as the biblical records object to serving leaven bread during the fest. Pesach festival is widely known for its ritual celebrative feasting. Jews follow many Pesach rituals that are stated in the story of Exodus in Hebrew Scriptures during Pesach festival. Feasting on unleavened bread and narrating the story of exodus to children over the Seder meal by parents and elders form an important part of Pesach celebration. Pesach preparation, Bedikat Chametz, Pesach lamb, Pesach Seder meal, Matzah are some of the important rituals followed by Jews during Pesach festival.
Pesach festival involves lot of preparation and groundwork. Pesach preparation begins day after Purim, which occurs a month before Pesach festival. According to the commandants in the torah, Jews are forbidden to eat chametz. Chametz is made of the five grains such as wheat, barley, rye, oats, and spelt. Jewish women decorate their home by painting the wall and ceiling of the house.
This is an important ritual of searching for chametz. The house is cleaned, but you have to still search for chametz. So people put ten pieces of chametz around the house. The family members search for the pieces. Customarily this is done with a candle in the darkened room, using a feather or a spoon to brush the chametz. Children have a lot of fun doing this. This is a commandment, so a prayer is said before doing so. A complete silence is maintained until the last piece is found. Then another prayer is said to eliminate all chametz that one is unaware of.
In Jewish tradition, the father of the house buys a customary lamb few weeks before Pesach festival. The Rabbi or butcher is brought to the house to slaughter the lamb outside of the house. It has been a custom to offer the butcher a piece of meat along with some money.
Pesach Seder Meal
The Seder meal is a ritual feast taken during Pesach fest and forms a very significant part of Pesach festival. The Seder meal is taken on first and second Pesach night. Family members and friends gather for festive supper meal to mark the beginning of the weeklong Pesach festival. They recite prayers over the wine and drink the first cup. A drop of wine is spilled during the reading of the ten plagues to symbolize the suffering and sadness related with the freedom of the Israelis. They dip karpas, or vegetables, in salt water and eat them. The salt water symbolizes the tears of the Israelis. Bitter herbs such as horseradish symbolize the bitterness of slavery, and vegetables are dipped in salt water to recall the tears of the slaves. A bone of lamb represents the sacrifices that were once performed at the historical Jewish Temple, while a boiled egg is eaten to symbolize Jewish faith under the heat of Egyptian oppression.
The middle of the matzah is broken into pieces and placed on the Seder table. Half of that matzah will become the Afikoman, the payment that will occur after the meal. The story of Passover is recited, and the youngest child is asked to chant the Four Questions. The retelling of the stories is followed with the second glass of wine. The matzah is blessed and it is tasted without any other flavors. Bitter herbs are taken with a bite of matzah. Charoset is added which is a mixture of apples, nuts, and wine--to create a Hillel sandwich. The holiday meal is served with deserts. The Afikoman is removed from the children present by giving them the gift and is shared with each guest present. After the Afikoman has been eaten, no other food should be consumed. The blessings are recited and everyone drinks the fourth cup of wine and concludes the Seder with traditional Passover songs.
The Pesach festival is being celebrated with much fun-fare, religious fervor and gaiety.
Jews follow many Pesach rituals during Pesach festival. Learn more about Pesach rituals in following write up.