3 min read
Fascinating Passover customs from around the world.
“Don’t forget the scallions.” Maybe this isn’t what you normally think about when it comes time to set the table for your traditional Passover seder. You are probably aware of hard-boiled eggs, salt water, and a shank bone, but scallions?
Each culture has its own traditions when it comes to celebrating holidays, especially Passover. Wherever you are in the world, these rituals tie your past to your present. Through social media and the internet, it’s easy to see and learn about each other and maybe even implement some of these customs into your own Passover experience.
Most Persian seders have a unique tradition during Dayeinu. The participants hit each other with scallions, preferably with the green leafy end and not the white bulb because that hurts. This represents the Egyptians whipping the slaves, the Jewish people. Prepare to defend yourself as you get lovingly swatted by members of your family and friends.
Is it your turn to be tapped on the head 3 times by a seder plate? This is a tradition from Spain of Moroccan, Turkish, and Tunisian Jews from around the mid-fourteenth century. It’s considered a blessing when your head is tapped and encourages the person to ask questions. Inspire interaction from your children and give them reasons to participate.
There is a tradition for Ethiopians to break their old dishes before Passover. With clay, they create new ones that have never touched hametz. In addition, it commemorates the past and celebrates a renewal toward the future. Imagine the fun the children have when they get to smash all the plates, pots, and bowls.
For all you artists and engineers, can you break your matzah into Hebrew letters? When it comes time to split the middle matzah, a Syrian custom is to break it into the letters “Daled” and “Vav”. These letters correspond to numbers that add to 10 representing the sefirot, the different channels through which the one God reveals His will. Perhaps you would prefer to create the shape of “Hey” which is the number 5, to represent God’s name, like the Jews from North Africa like Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and Libya.
Among North African Jews, there is a similar custom of breaking the middle matzah into the shape of the letter hey. Hey not only represents God’s name, but it is also the first letter of the Aramaic passage in the Haggadah that begins Hah Lach’ma Ahn’yah. (“This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat…”) The matzah broken into the shape of the hey is passed around to be held over one’s head as each seder participant recites the Hah Lach’ma Ahn’yah paragraph.
You’re all dressed, but is your Passover table missing some bling? The Hungarian Jews use gold and silver to add sparkle to their seder. Perhaps this represents the Egyptians trying to bribe the Israelites from leaving with offers of precious metals. It certainly can’t hurt to add some jewelry to your table.
You probably know that charoset represents the mortar that was used to build while Jews were slaves in Egypt. Maybe you have a special recipe for your charoset. But the Jews of Gibraltar, Spain have a secret ingredient. They add a little bit of brick dust to help cement the taste. You might want to add this secret ingredient to your recipe. Or you could check out one of these recipes from around the world.
In addition to the cup for Elijah the profit, Indian Jews add a cup for Pharaoh. Pouring wine out into all the other glasses symbolizes Pharaoh’s power is diminished.
Whatever your traditions for your Passover seder, it’s always fun to have a new twist by adding some different customs from other cultures. Whether you choose to add brick dust to your charoset or break your matzah into letters, you’ll be starting a new trend that you and your family can enjoy.
In years to come, will your children remember whipping each other with green onions or being tapped on the head with the seder plate? Not sure if you want to break your dishes, there’s plenty to clean already. But you may want to consider adding gold and silver to bling up your table decor.
How will you be enhancing your Passover seder?