Beginning sundown Monday, April 14th, Jews around the world will be celebrating Passover, the holiday that commemorates the story of the exodus of the Hebrew slaves from their imprisonment in ancient Egypt.
All Jewish holidays have an important food–related tradition. Whether it is by eating particular foods, consuming doughnuts on Chanukah, or by completely abstaining from all foods and drinks during Yom Kippur. Passover is a combination of both consuming and abstaining as the holiday calls for not eating any form of leavened bread (chametz) as well as holding ritual meals — Seders —on the first two nights of Passover (first night only if you live in Israel).
The Seder meal is really the focal point of the holiday. Yet, while all Jews are recalling the exact same exodus story and following the 15-steps as guided by the Haggadah (traditional text used during the meal), the customs and traditions differ from country to country. We spoke with a few practicing members of the Jewish community from to learn more about some of the diverse Passover customs from around the globe. Who eats eggs only for the main course? Which community uses a spring onion to beat their loved ones during the Seder? Who adds a little sprinkling of dust to their charoset? Read on to learn about some of the diverse Passover customs from around the world.
From Passover menus and party ideas to the best Passover dinner and Seder recipes, we’ve got you covered. Find all this and more on The Daily Meal’s Passover Recipes & Menus Page.
Arguably, the best part of the Seder is when we get to eat “charoset” — a sweet, chunky paste made from various fruits (e.g. apples, cinnamon, dates) and nuts. This is meant to resemble the mortar used by the Jews to build while enslaved in Egypt. Each family has their own distinct recipe for charoset. In Gibraltar, however, they add a little extra spice — brick dust!
“It is indeed true, and although much joking and mirth ensues about who gets the bit of brick stuck in their tooth, it is like many things a figurative custom, and a bit of dust from a brick is put into the charoset,” says Isaac Hassan. “My mother, who has been making charoset for longer than I can remember has had the same brick for over 30 years, and it is practically the same size.”
Another custom is for the person leading the Seder to walk around the table with the Seder plate 3 times when reciting the phrase “we left Egypt in a hurry.”
“We will tap it on the head of each person,’’ explained Isaac Hassan. “The funny bit is how people react to the plate being banged on their head. Kids love it and visitors are amazed.”
If you’ve never been to a Persian or Afghani Seder, be prepared for a light beating on the back or shoulder during the song ‘Dayenu’. The custom of using scallions to hit each other during the singing is to symbolize the slaves being whipped by their taskmasters in Egypt. If you’re a guest at Ian Aronovich’s Seder in New York, you may want to be extra alert. “When we sing Dayenu, we run around the room and beat each other violently with green onions!”
For more Passover traditions around the world, click here!