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Passover Traditions Around the World

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Passover is a holiday that has stood the test of time and, as such, it is celebrated the world over. Wherever there is a Jewish community, you are likely to see Passover celebrated, meaning there are going to be slight variations in tradition from place to place. Some countries have very interesting ways of remembering the exodus from Egypt, and, below, we have a few of them.

Charoset Variations

The story of Passover begins in Egypt, where the children of Israel were in slavery to one of the world's dominant cultures. Charoset, an edible paste, is used as a signifier of the mortar that would have been between the bricks that the Jews were forced to build with. Generally, this food is made with fruits and nuts. In Eastern Europe, a common recipe would include apples, nuts, cinnamon, and some kind of sweet wine. In Gibraltar, they are known to mix in actual brick dust!

Crossing the Red Sea

In some parts of Poland, Hasidic Jews are known to act out the crossing of the Red Sea (wherein the Jews escaped the pursuing Egyptians) in their living rooms. On the seventh day of Passover, they pour water in the middle of the floor, lift their coats, and cross while naming the towns they would pass in their region of Poland.

Onion Whips

Photo by starfish75, sxc.hu
Afghani Jews are known to re-enact the bondage of their ancestors in a unique way: with scallions. At a certain point during the Seder, they will gently "whip" one another with bunches of scallions to bring to remembrance the slave drivers' whips in Egypt. There is estimated to be one Jewish person currently living in Afghanistan, but those who left the country for other places (mostly Queens, NY) have brought this tradition with them.

Destroying Dishes

Many Ethiopian Jews recently underwent an exodus themselves; they were airlifted to Israel during a period of severe political turmoil in 1985. For this reason, it is customary for them to break all their earthenware dishes during Passover and make new ones afterward. This is to represent a clean break with the past and a fresh new beginning for the future.

Saying Hi to Elijah

In Eastern Europe, as well as Morocco and other places, preparations are made to welcome the prophet Elijah, who is said to visit during Passover. Most cultures set out a goblet of wine for him and leave the door open, but some Moroccan Jews (in Casablanca, especially) go so far as to set out an ornate chair for him, complete with decorative cushions and ornaments.

Even a holiday as established as Passover can have its variations. From culture to culture, this important religious event also carries with it the rich histories of Jewish people living in so many different parts of the world. Whatever traditions you and your family have, you'll be enjoying this celebration of perseverance with people all over the globe!

Patrick Hanan  Posted by Patrick Hanan on March 31, 2010

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