Passover 101 for Non-Jews

Kosher for Passover cartoonsWhat is Passover? When is Passover celebrated?

Passover, for many Jews is the most significant of all Jewish holidays. Jewish Passover commemorates the Israelites’ liberation from Egyptian slavery. The celebration’s best part is the Passover meal called Seder. Passover dates: From April 19, 2008 to April 27, 2008.

What is a Seder? What happens during a Seder?

First, “Seder” is the Hebrew word for order. Order is the operating word here as it is observed in the rituals and the manner in which the foods are served. A religious service, the reading of the Haggadah is done pre-meal. Following is a grand feast with traditional Passover foods like the matzah, parsley and shankbone to name a few. Singing and activities for kids are also included.

This one is more tricky than the usual questions: If you got invited for Seder to your boyfriend/girlfriend’s house, is it a sign that an engagement is forthcoming?

If your special someone invites you for Passover dinner, then that implies a deeper level of commitment. After all, Passover is Jewish family holiday that’s equivalent to the status of say, Thanksgiving or Christmas! If you will be a guest, be a relaxed and open-minded one. You will surely learn a lot about your partner as you observe their celebration of the Passover.

If you’re not Jewish, is it okay to send a Passover greeting through e-cards, email greetings or Friendster/MySpace greets to your Jewish friends/colleagues?

Why not? As I mentioned before, the Passover is like Thanksgiving or Christmas to the Jewish community. Wishing them a Happy Passover is just a way to show you care and value their traditions too. Coming from an interfaith family, I also send Christmas e-cards to my Catholic and Christian friends and family. Of late, I received an email from my young cousin that even has Passover smileys in it! These smileys are just awesome–one looks like the local Rabbi reading the Passover Haggadah , another is a beaming Jewish boy and a cute Jewish girl holding a Passover Seder plate . I’ve used these smileys in my email greets to cousins in the U.K. and they liked them too. These ultra-cute smileys are from ZaaZu.com. If you wanna get your Passover smileys too, check out their website.

April 25, 2008 at 1:54 pm Leave a comment

Food for the body and soul

I feel lucky to have experienced the best of my parents’ Catholic and Jewish traditions. Though you can really say the Jewish rites, especially during Passover are quite heavy in symbols. Take the Passover foods and Passover recipes we share with our family and friends. The Passover menu is essentially a retelling of the Passover story–our journey to freedom. Here are the usual contents of the Passover plate.

The Matzah (Passover bread), a special bread symbolizes the deliverance from Egyptian slavery. Its simple and flat shape reminds us of the hardships our forefathers endured.

The Haroset, a thick brown fruit and nut dip represents the mortar Jewish slaves used to build Egyptian buildings.

Maror is a bitter herb or greens (usually horseradish) that is a symbol for the bitterness of slavery. Parsley, on the other hand illustrates the rebirth of spring and the expectation for harvest in the latter part of spring.

Eggs, which are roasted, symbolize resurrection. The roasting reminds us of the sacrifice on Passover in ancient Jerusalem.

A shank bone (of a lamb or Passover lamb) represents the offering made at the temple in Jerusalem.

The Passover meal is quite a flexible observance as families and communities adjust it to accommodate the concerns of the times. In vegetarian families, a carrot or beet can be an alternative to the shank bone. An orange is sometimes added to remember the marginalization of women, homosexuals and other groups of people who have been oppressed.

Although I don’t get to prepare food for the Passover Seder, my grandmother allows me to observe her. In these fast food times, it makes me think. Food isn’t just for nourishment of the body but of the soul as well. Happy Passover everyone!

April 25, 2008 at 12:49 pm Leave a comment

Gathering Family and Friends Closer at Passover

Passover through the decades has come to mean more than a strictly religious commemoration of our Exodus from Egypt and freedom from slavery. The passing of the years saw the celebration of Passover becoming synonymous with starting over and renewing ties with family and friends. No matter how busy we are living our lives, we go home to observe Passover.

We start by opening our homes to family and friends at sundown this Sunday for a Seder service. Remember how challenging and fun it is to invite our non-Jewish friends to the traditional Passover Seder and explain to them what the plate and its contents symbolize?

Happy PassoverIs there a party that can be both serious and joyful at the same time? Well, the Passover Seder of course! When we gather around our extended families and friends on Passover celebration, talk never seems to end. A silent dinner table is something that doesn’t exist in our community! A tip to our guests, don’t be shy about asking questions. The head of the family would welcome this as he/she usually holds court during the Seder. Non-Jews may be surprised to find us a singing, acting and generally fun bunch during Passover dinner. Don’t forget to set up games and activities for the kids! You can prepare special Passover coloring books, a Passover word search challenge, Passover craft-making and a whole lot more activities created around a Passover theme. The big meal and the reading of the Haggadah are the highlights of our annual reunion.

These activities surely underscore our closeness not just as a family but as a people as well. Through the celebration of Passover, we focus on the significance of the roles of senior members of the family and children too. Age-old traditions and values do have more meaning when everyone is present during this important holiday.

But how about those family and friends who are oceans away from us during the Passover holiday? Well, they can still be reached with a click or two. I try to reach out by sending Passover-themed e-cards to them and adding Passover-themed comments in their Friendster or MySpace profiles. These are just my modest ways of having them know they’re remembered. Still, nothing beats writing a personal email with my own words and some photos attached to it. A little effort on my part will go a long, long way for friends and family who cannot make it home. I also thought of using smileys and emoticons in my email. There are lots of free smileys on the web, they even have holiday themed smileys. Of late, I came across these cool smileys called ZaaZu that I can use to dress up my email messages with. Just in time for Passover!

Take a look at some really cool Passover smileys: Your local Rabbi smiley reading the Passover Haggadah , a smiling Jewish boy , and a little girl smiley holding a symbolic plate and greeting everyone Happy Passover . I dig the little details with the egg, herbs and shankbone! These Passover 2008 smileys even come in three sizes-small, medium and large. Aren’t these the cutest smileys ever? If you want to send in your warmest holiday greetings with a Passover smiley go to ZaaZu’s website! Happy Passover everyone!

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April 25, 2008 at 11:56 am Leave a comment

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