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Passover 2024: when is the Jewish holiday and how is it celebrated?

Passover has been celebrated since 1300 BC  (Getty Images)
Passover has been celebrated since 1300 BC (Getty Images)

Families worldwide are preparing themselves for the major Jewish holiday of Passover, which takes place in April.

Passover is a time for reflection, gratitude, and the reaffirmation of Jewish identity and values, as well as a celebration of freedom and liberation.

It involves various rituals and traditions.

Here is everything you need to know about the spring festival.

A man shops for Passover items at a grocery store during the coronavirus pandemic (Jamie Squire / Getty Images)
A man shops for Passover items at a grocery store during the coronavirus pandemic (Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

When is Passover 2024?

This year, Passover starts at sundown on Monday, April 22, and lasts until nightfall on Monday, April 29, or Tuesday, April 30 depending on the family tradition.

In Judaism, a day starts at nightfall and lasts until dusk the next day.

What is Passover?

Celebrated by Jews since about 1300 BC, Passover, also known as Pesach, is a festival that commemorates the emancipation of Jewish people from Egyptian slavery.

More positively, it also celebrates the Jewish people's freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses.

It lasts for either seven or eight days, depending on where you live, and begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan.

People of various faiths and nationalities attend an interfaith Passover celebration (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images)
People of various faiths and nationalities attend an interfaith Passover celebration (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images)

How is Passover celebrated?

Here are the key elements of the celebration:

  • Seder: The centerpiece of Passover is the Seder, a ceremonial meal held on the first two nights of the holiday (outside of Israel, where it is observed for seven days). The Seder includes the reading of the Haggadah, a text that recounts the Exodus story, along with prayers, blessings, and discussions about the significance of the holiday. Symbolic foods are eaten during the Seder, such as matzah (unleavened bread), bitter herbs (often horseradish), charoset (a mixture of fruits and nuts), and a roasted shank bone or chicken wing.

  • Matzah: During Passover, Jews refrain from eating chametz, which includes 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. Instead, they eat matzah, that is made simply from flour and water and is baked quickly to prevent it from rising

  • Removing chametz: Before Passover begins, Jews traditionally engage in a thorough cleaning of their homes to remove all traces of chametz. This includes cleaning out pantries, cupboards, and other areas where chametz might be found. It often involves a ritual search for chametz using a candle and feather.

  • Passover sacrifices: In ancient times, Passover involved the sacrifice of a lamb, which was then roasted and eaten as part of the Seder meal. Since the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, sacrifices have ceased, but the symbolism of the Passover lamb remains an important part of the holiday.

  • Feasting and celebration: Passover is a time for joyous celebration with family and friends. In addition to the Seder meal, Jews often gather for festive meals throughout the holiday, enjoying traditional Passover foods and sharing stories and memories.

What is the Passover Seder?

Passover Seder plate (Shutterstock)
Passover Seder plate (Shutterstock)

The Passover Seder is a traditional meal consisting of symbolic foods which always takes place on the first night of Passover. Some Jewish communities also hold another Seder on the second night of Passover.

Traditions involve drinking four cups of wine, eating matzah bread, and eating specific foods from the Passover Seder plate. A big part of the Seder is to encourage children to ask questions to keep their interest in Judaism.

The Passover Seder plate consists of:

  • Maror - bitter herbs representing the harshness of slavery endured by the Jews in Egypt.

  • Charoset - a sweet mixture representing the mortar Jews used to build the pyramids.

  • Karpas - vegetables that represent renewal and are often dipped in salt water at the beginning of the meal.

  • Zeroah - roasted lamb bone, representing the lamb offered in the Temple of Jerusalem.

  • Beitzah - a roasted, hard-boiled egg that is used to represent a symbol of mourning.