A different way of celebrating Passover in 2020
- Posted on April 8, 2020
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
This week, Jews around the world will celebrate Passover, a holiday to commemorate our freedom from slavery under Pharaoh in ancient Egypt. In the Hebrew Calendar, we are in the year 5780, compared to today in 2020.
The holiday lasts for eight days and begins with the Pesach (Passover) Seder, a meal shared with family and close friends. Leading up to this night, there is a great deal of cleaning, shopping and preparation. All over the world, Jews congregate around a beautiful table, reading and singing songs from a book called a “Haggadah,” which translates to “telling” the Passover story, some parts in English (or the country’s native language), some in Hebrew. The Haggadah is inclusive, spelling out very clearly that that Jews open their homes to share this celebration with those who may not have a place to go. I feel that Avanade is inclusive too, respecting my time away to prepare and participate in the celebration each year.
There are several rituals we follow, including eating “matzah,” a flat type of cracker, representing the unleavened bread that did not have time to rise with the rushed exodus from Egypt. The centerpiece of the Passover table is called a “Seder Plate,” which holds a shank bone, parsley, lettuce, horseradish, a roasted egg and “haroset” – a mixture of apples, walnuts and wine. Each of these items represents the hardship of our labor and the sweetness of our freedom.
To most Jews, the most significant part of this holiday is being with family—parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents—hearing the latest news, singing, eating and laughing. The food is plentiful, with several traditional courses served, like matzah ball soup, gefilte fish, various meats, salads and vegetables. There are always yummy desserts, like chocolate cake, meringues and something called “macaroons” – soft, coconut-based cookies. One cannot cook with traditional flour on this holiday, or eat any bread, pasta, or “leavened” products or grains. You may see items with labels that say, “Kosher for Passover,” meaning that the factory was cleaned carefully for the holiday, even items like Coca Cola. I am always amazed at how delicious the food is with these restrictions. My sister-in-law’s brisket – a recipe that is three generations old – is fantastic. My aunt Beanie’s chocolate mousse is a family favorite, and almost every year, my Aunt Helen, as she is serving her famous compote dessert, a sweet mixture of dried fruit, will yell out, “I forgot to bring out the broccoli!” There are roars of laughter by that point, as we are all stuffed.
This will be the first year that we won’t be together around the Passover table, so many are planning a “virtual Seder” to keep the traditions alive. We will miss being with our parents, siblings and extended family. We plan to say some prayers and sing songs together and light a special candle to remember the generations before us, including those who perished in the Holocaust and family members who are no longer with us. Like most religious celebrations, this is a time to feel grateful for what we have and come together as a community. As you pick up your items in the busy stores, the custom is to wish someone a “Chag Pesach Semeach,” a “good holiday” full of peace, health and happiness.
During the Seder, we always say, “Next year in Jerusalem.” For now, from my family to yours, we say, “Stay healthy and safe!”