Chag Pesach Sameach! It’s almost time for Passover, the Jewish holiday that tells the story of the Israelites being freed from slavery in Egypt. Get all the details on when it starts, ends and how to celebrate.
April 19 is a very holy day in 2019. Not only does Good Friday, the pre-Easter holiday, fall upon that date, but it’s also the start of Passover! Because it is traditionally observed on the 15th of Nisan, the day in the Jewish lunar calendar, Passover’s date shifts from year to year. In 2019, the eight-day Jewish holiday will begin at sundown on Friday, April 19. It will conclude a week later, at sundown on Saturday, April 27, at the end of Shabbat, according to Newsweek.
There are many ways to wish someone a happy Passover – “Happy Passover,” for instance, works just fine. In Hebrew, “Chag Sameach” translates to “happy festival,” and is the equivalent of saying “Happy Holidays.” To make it a Passover greeting, Time recommends adding “Pesach,” the Hebrew word for Passover, in there. Keep in mind that the “ch” in these sounds is not pronounced the way you’d say “chalk,” but more like the hard sound in “Bach.”
The name Passover comes from the warning that Moses received from his God during his efforts to free the Israelites. Moses demanded that the Egyptian pharaoh release the Jews – for which the ruler had enslaved when he worried that the Jews living in Egypt would outnumber his own people, according to Vox – but the Pharaoh refused. Ten plagues then followed: the Nile turned to blood; a swarm of frogs; a lice outbreak; hordes of wild animals invaded the cities; a pestilence killed the domestic animals; boils developed on the citizens of Egypt; a devastating hail fell from the sky; a swarm of locusts devoured all the crops; a darkness fell on the land; and finally, the firstborn sons of everyone in Egypt were killed, according to The History Channel.
God, according to the story, warned Moses that Israelites should mark their doorposts with lamb’s blood so that God would “pass over” and spare them from the final plague. The final plague struck the Pharoah’s own son, and he released the Jews from slavery. Thus began the exodus from Egypt.
Passover is celebrated with a home ritual known as the Passover seder (“order” in Hebrew.) It takes place at a dinner table and sees the retelling of the Passover story. Then, blessings are given over food and wine, and the menu is very important. The curated meal represents the story of the exodus. Unleaved bread is an essential component, as the story says the Israelites fled Egypt in such a hurry that their bread, matzah, didn’t have time to rise.
Families also traditionally leave a symbolic seat for the prophet Elijah, and a glass of wine is poured for him – one that no one else may drink. The cup represents future messianic “redemption,” which the prophet Elijah will announce upon his arrival.