The holiday of Passover commemorates the remarkable liberation of the Jewish people from Egyptian slavery more than 3,000 years ago. In America, the holiday continues for eight days. Throughout Passover, Jews traditionally refrain from eating "chametz," or leavened products made from wheat, rye, barley, oats or spelt. Instead, they eat a crispy cracker-like bread known as matzo.
One of the most meaningful things you can do to celebrate the Jews' hasty exodus from Egypt is to remove all leavened food products from your property. Spend the weeks leading up to Passover emptying your pantry of all bread, cereal, pasta, crackers and cookies. Take the ban on bread to another level by sweeping and mopping your floors, wiping down your kitchen countertops and scrubbing down your cabinets, oven and refrigerator. Bump it up still more by vacuuming your car, shaking out your computer keyboard, checking your pockets and purse and replacing old toothbrushes. By working to remove the tiniest traces of chametz, you'll identify with Jews throughout history who have prepared for Passover.
Ramp Up Enjoyment
Outside of Israel, the first two and last two days of Passover are genuine holidays. Mark those days by wearing new clothes, lighting holiday candles at night, reciting the kiddush, the blessing over wine or grape juice and eating elaborate holiday meals with family and friends.. Matzo is a must, but beyond that, serve what you and your family most enjoy. You can opt for traditional European Jewish foods -- including gefilte fish, chicken soup with matzo balls and roast chicken -- or design and dish up a more exotic menu. As on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, Orthodox Jews observe many restrictions on the first and last days of Passover. They don't write or engage in business, drive or turn electrical devices on and off. Unplugging from social media is a great way to declare yourself "free" and will likely enhance your enjoyment of the holiday.
Host a Seder
Think of the Passover Seder as an elaborate tool designed to help you and every Jew experience the transition from slavery to freedom.. Before Passover, visit a Jewish bookstore or search online for a Haggada that "speaks" to you. Familiarize yourself with the contents of the Haggada, read through the commentaries and collect other inspirational reading material to share with your family and guests on Seder night. Purchase and prepare the symbolic foods that appear at the Seder, including the charoset, bitter herbs, shank bone and egg. At the Seder itself, consider the Haggada an outline, but feel free to venture beyond it and discuss certain ideas or concepts at greater length. The point is to relate the story of the exodus and to consider its relevance to your own life. If you have children, spice it up. This is your chance to convey to them the meaning and significance of the holiday through song, stories, play acting and riddles. Do whatever it takes to keep their attention.
During the intermittent days of Passover, known as "chol hamoed," focus on spending extra time with family and friends. If possible, take vacation days from work or try to cut back on your hours. Religious Jews often use the intermediate days of Passover to visit museums, parks, zoos and hiking trails. Take your cue from them and turn the middle days of the holiday into quality family time. Wear nicer clothes than you would on a typical weekday and try to eat together as a family.
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