One of the best things about doing a two-week program in Israel when I was in college was meeting Jewish people from all over the world. As expected, there were lots of Jewish women and men from the U.S. But, many of our program participants came from other places like Brazil and South America. Together, we learned how each of us brought our own cultural traditions to our Jewish holiday celebrations.
That, to me, was simply magical.
No matter where we lived or what oceans divided us, we were connected by our cultural heritage and religions. And, while some of the ways we celebrated were unique to our home countries, many of the traditions were shared ones. And, ones that withstood the test of time, distance and more.
To me, our differences unite us as a people – just as much as any similarities. Why? Because, it shows that we’re all doing our best to keep our traditions alive all across the globe. We’ve just embraced and infused subtle nuances to the same holiday celebrations that day back hundreds thousands of years.
That, to me, is what keeps our cultural celebrations alive, makes them relevant and ensures that remain an integral part of our lives – and that of generations to come.
And, that is extremely evident when you look at how Passover is celebrated around the world.
Here, in the US, Passover is an eight-day celebration that begins with families and friends coming together for a Seder, or a holiday meal, traditionally on the first one or two nights of the holiday. The word, “seder,” means “order,” and it takes its name from the fact that the meal is done in an order that takes us from slavery to freedom.
During the Seder, you read from the Haggadah, which tells the story of Passover and includes blessings and songs. It also explains the foods found on the Seder plate, which is placed at the center of each Seder table.
Part way through the Haggadah, we stop and enjoy the Seder meal, which in my parents’ home always begins with matzo ball soup.
For the duration of the holiday, we traditionally eat matzo, or flat, unleavened bread.
For eight days, a family’s bread basket is replaced with a matzo holder. And, we enjoy unique dishes like matza pizza, matza lasagna and more. But, my favorite will always be matzo brie, or matzo fried with eggs.
In recent years, my own family infused a new tradition into the Passover celebrations I enjoyed as a child with the introduction of Miriam. After my husband and I got married, we learned of the tradition of placing Miriam’s cup on our table to honor the role of Miriam the Prophetess in the Exodus and to highlight the contributions of women to Jewish culture. And, we still honor Miriam – and all Jewish women – today.
But, that’s just how my family has chosen to incorporate old and new traditions into our Passover celebration.
A look at different ways Passover is celebrated around the world:
Liane of Book Ba Shuk is originally from US and now resides with her family in Israel. Like in the US, Israeli Seders usually are a big gathering with extended family. But, since many children are off from school during Passover, Israeli families often use the time to go abroad together.
In Ethiopia, Jewish families often break all of their dishes and cookware to commemorate their past and celebrate renewal – and then make new ones. According to TIME magazine, the tradition is in keeping with the hope for emancipation and redemption that is signified by Passover.
In Italy, a great deal of focus is put on the Seder plate itself. According to Happy Passover, the plate is placed on a child’s head and rotated allowing everyone to have a look of it before it’s placed on the table.
In India, you’ll often find many different foods than you’d find on a traditional Ashkenazi Seder table, including molagachi (mahogany chicken with black pepper), ellegal (spice-rubbed fish in cool herb salsa), masalachi (mutton braised with garlic and coriander) and appam (coconut crepes with date sauce), as noted by The Los Angeles Times.
Given the prominent role food plays in shaping our unique holiday celebrations, I enjoyed reading this tale of shopping for Passover Seder foods in Paris by Elaine Sciolino in The New York Times. And, I must admit that I am curious to try two of the French-made food items she found there – thick, round Algerian-style, orange-and-wine-infused matzos and potato egg noodles.
I’m also very interested to try some of the South African Passover recipes shared by Kosher Scoop, including the one for Pesachdike Pancakes made with matzo meal instead of flour.
In the Southern Hemisphere, Passover is celebrated in the fall.
Today, Argentina is home to the seventh-largest number of Jewish people by country in the world, and families come together to enjoy the eight-day holiday, enjoying many of the tradition foods that find their way on my family’s Seder table in the US during the spring.
Passover also is celebrated in the fall in Australia. The Joy of Kosher shares some Australian-inspired recipes that are enjoyed during the holiday, including quinoa tabour, pomegranate salad and pavlova with grilled pineapple.
In true multicultural style, I learned from reading a Haggadah supplement from the Federation CJA, based in Montreal, Canada, that at the end of Passover, Moroccan and Turkish Jews participate in Mimouna, a celebration of freedom, community values, togetherness, friendship – and the renewal that accompanies spring. Each family offers a buffet feast that can be enjoyed by visiting friends and family members, with sweets often enjoyed to herald in a sweet, new beginning.
This year, for Passover, my family’s table will be filled with our seder plate, traditional foods and Miriam’s cup. And, I aim to also begin to incorporate a few new multicultural traditions from around the world. In doing so, I know it will remind me of my time spent in Israel with Jewish students from across the globe, and hopefully encourage us, as a family, to continue to seek out and incorporate other traditions into our own family celebrations.
How do you celebrate Passover where you live? Do your celebrations include any traditions that are specific to your country and/or culture? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
This post is part of the Passover for Kids series on Multicultural Kid Blogs. Follow along as we share ideas for sharing this special holiday with kids!
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