Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) is the most observed Jewish holiday. Known as the Festival of Freedom, it commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs.

The holiday occurs during the month of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar, usually in March or April. It’s observed with formally structured seders (festive, ritualized meals) among families, friends and communities and other sacred traditions.

Here’s what to know about the holiday.

When does Passover start?

Passover will begin in the evening of Monday, April 22, and will last through April 30 just after sundown.

The Jewish community in El Paso sing along as they gather to celebrate Passover Seder on Saturday, April 8, 2023 in Sunland Park, New Mexico.

The Jewish community in El Paso sing along as they gather to celebrate Passover Seder on Saturday, April 8, 2023 in Sunland Park, New Mexico.

Passover meaning

Within Judaism, Passover symbolizes the ancient Israelites’ freedom from slavery in Egypt and underscores God’s faithfulness, as detailed in the Torah’s biblical narrative. The term “Passover” originates from the Exodus account, signifying the Jewish people being spared from the devastating plagues brought about by God.

In the Jewish calendar, Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan, which typically falls between March and April. Although it typically lasts eight days, Jews in Israel generally observe only seven days. According to Jewish customs, work is usually prohibited on the first and last days of the holiday.

What foods are eaten (or not eaten) during Passover?

Many Jews during Passover do not eat certain leavened foods, known as chametz, to honor the plight of the Israelites as they left Egypt. “Leveaned” means any food product made from wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt that has come into contact with water and been allowed to ferment and “rise.” That includes bread, pasta, beer, liquor and more. Homes are thoroughly cleared of all remaining leavened products before the holiday.

The Jewish community in El Paso pass over unleavened bread as they gather celebrating Passover Seder on Saturday, April 8, 2023, in Sunland Park, New Mexico.The Jewish community in El Paso pass over unleavened bread as they gather celebrating Passover Seder on Saturday, April 8, 2023, in Sunland Park, New Mexico.

The Jewish community in El Paso pass over unleavened bread as they gather celebrating Passover Seder on Saturday, April 8, 2023, in Sunland Park, New Mexico.

The Sedar plate is used to display six symbolic foods that help retell the miraculous story of Moses and the Passover as recorded in the Book of Exodus. The foods are:

  • Matzo, or unleavened bread, is broken into pieces to represent the ancient Israelites breaking the shackles of slavery. The pieces also represent priests, Levites, and Israelites and commemorate the story in Genesis when Abraham and Sarah were visited by three angels and bread was hastily baked for their visit.

  • Parsley, or karpas in Hebrew, represents the slaves’ back-breaking labor. It is dipped in salt water, representing the slaves’ tears.

  • The Beitzah, a hard-boiled or roasted egg, represents the life cycle and the meat sacrifices brought to the ancient Temple in Jerusalem prior to the holidays. The egg is eaten after it, too, is dipped in salt water.

  • The lamb shank or bone represents the lamb sacrificed and eaten on the eve of the Exodus. The lamb’s blood was used to mark the Israelite slaves’ doorposts so that the final plague − death − would “pass over” their homes.

  • Bitter herbs, or “maror,” traditionally consist of horseradish or romaine lettuce stems and recall the bitterness of the Israelites’ experiences in captivity.

  • Charoset is a blended mixture of apples, pears, nuts and wine. It represents the mortar and bricks the Israelite slaves used in building for their Egyptian masters.

Popular Passover dishes include roasted chicken, gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, potato kugel, candied carrots and rack of lamb.

USA Today Network contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: When does Passover start? Here’s what to know about Jewish holiday

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