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Jewish Festivals

    Pesach or Passover is one of the world's oldest festivals. It has been in existence since long before the first Easter. It was in fact Jesus Christ himself who celebrated Pesach or Passover at His "Last Supper" just before he was crucified.

    Pesach or Passover is celebrated in memory of the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. In about 1250 BC the Jews or Hebrews were slaves to the Pharaoh or King of Egypt. With the help of God, Moses led them to freedom in their Promised Land. It is known as Pesach or Passover as God passed over the Jewish houses when he slew the first born children of Egypt. The Jews were protected by lambs' blood which had been smeared on the doors of their homes.

    The festival is a family festival and is celebrated in their homes. On the first, second and even the third day of Pesach or Passover all the family gather for the Seder. This is when they come together for a history lesson and service, at the supper Jews also call out the ten plagues such as blood, frogs, lice, wild beasts, sickness, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and the death of the first-born child. They also hold the service to remember the Exodus from Egypt.

    In the centre of the table is a plate containing a number of symbolic foods. These are to remind the Jews of the details of the story. There is a lamb bone as a reminder of the lambs' blood that was smeared on the doors to protect them when God passed over. Parsley is a reminder of spring and before it is eaten must be first dipped in salt water which represents the tears of the slaves in Egypt and the Red Sea which parted to allow the Jews to escape.

    There are also bitter herbs to make tears come to the eyes again a reminder of the tears. However these are dipped in a sweet paste called haroset before eating. This paste represents the mortar the slaves used in buildings. The herbs and paste is a reminder of a bitter beginning and a sweet happy ending.

    During the Seder the youngest child must ask questions such as "Why is this night different from other nights?" to which answers are given as a way of telling the story. The symbolic food is eaten or displayed at the appropriate places in the story.

    During Pesach or Passover Jews are not to leavened bread as on the day the Jews left Egypt they had not time to let the dough rise and they were forced to eat the bread unleavened. Now during Pesach or Passover Matzoth which is rather like a dry water biscuit is eaten.

    Pesach or Passover is celebrated in the spring and lasts for a week.

    During Pesach or Passover the food eaten is different, the plates, cutlery and glasses used are different to those used the rest of the year. People greet each other by saying "Hag Sameach" which means "A joyous festival" in Hebrew.

    Pesach or Passover begins when the new moon is seen in Jerusalem and everyone prepares for the Seder meal.

    Springtime which is when Pesach or Passover is celebrated is a time of year where every house is cleaned from top to bottom and all foods that are not special to Pesach or Passover such as bread and biscuits which are leavened are thrown out. Children join in the search for the leaven food known as Hametz. Some small piece is left in each room so the children can look forward to eating a piece on festivals eve.

    Pesach or Passover is also known as the Feast of the Unleavened Bread. As this is the only type of bread permitted to be eaten during Pesach or Passover. Bread, which does not rise, is known as Matzah.

    At Pesach or Passover everyone joins in the singing during the Seder meal and after the meal as well. Most of the singing is of the psalms in the Book of Psalms in the Bible. As well as traditional songs such as Dayenu.

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