What Is Passover? Learn the History and How It's Celebrated

Passover begins April 15, 2022: Here's everything you've ever wondered about the holiday.

The arrival of spring brings warmer days, fresh blooms, and the religious celebration of Passover. If you're not familiar with Passover or don't typically celebrate it, we've put together a guide to the basic history and traditions associated with the Jewish holiday.

Passover (also referred to by the Hebrew word Pesach) is an 8-day holiday celebrated each spring. It's perhaps the most important Jewish holiday and traditionally includes a large feast, known as the Passover Seder.

In preparation for the celebration, brush up on the history of the holiday and how it's celebrated around the world.

passover seder table
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When is Passover 2022?

Passover begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month Nisan, which means the dates of the holiday change slightly each year. This year Passover begins on the evening of Friday, April 15, and ends on the evening of Saturday, April 23.

What Is Passover?

Passover is an eight-day festival that celebrates the Biblical story of Exodus, or the story of God freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The book of Exodus is included in the Old Testament, and is also one of the five books that make up the Torah in Judaism.

The story goes that the Israelites (from whom the modern-day Jewish faith originated) had been enslaved in Egypt for over 200 years. God had promised the Israelites that he would free them, but the Pharaoh of Egypt refused to let them go. So God inflicted the 10 plagues of Egypt upon the land. As God inflicted the tenth plague, Pharaoh called on Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, freeing them from slavery and allowing them to practice their faith as they pleased.

This is one of the most important Jewish holidays because it tells the story of God protecting the Jewish people and allowing the faith to carry on. When he inflicted the plagues, all of the Israelites were "passed over" (or kept safe), which is where the name of the holiday comes from.

How Is Passover Celebrated?

Passover is typically an eight-day festival, although some sections of Judaism celebrate for seven days instead of eight. During these eight days, Jewish people abide by strict dietary rules as a form of sacrifice, and usually host a large feast known as a Seder.

During Passover, it's customary to refrain from eating any grains that can ferment and become leavened. (Such as wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye.) When Moses led the Jews out of Egypt, they didn't have enough time to let their breads rise before escaping into the desert—so modern-day celebrations forgo leavened breads as a way to honor the sacrifice of their ancestors.

As part of the Seder, most families serve foods that symbolize the story of Exodus: Wine symbolizes joy, bitter herbs represent the suffering of the enslaved Isrealites, green leafy vegetables symbolize rebirth, and matzah (bread eaten by the enslaved people) serves as a reminder of the freedom given to the people by God.

Another traditional element of the Seder is the reading of the Haggadah, a book that tells the story of Passover. (In Hebrew, the word Haggadah means "telling.")

If you are invited to a Passover Seder for the first time, this telling is a great time to learn more about the rituals and beliefs associated with the holiday.

Are Passover and Easter Related?

Because Passover and Easter often occur at or around the same time, many people mistakenly believe the two holidays are connected, however Passover and Easter are not directly related: Passover celebrates the Israelites freeing slavery in Egypt, while Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus.

However, there are a few notable connections: Jesus was known to have celebrated Passover and attended the feasts and celebrations (in fact, the Last Supper was likely a Passover Seder). And because Jesus' death and resurrection occurred during Passover, the timing of the two holidays typically overlap in modern times as well.

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