4 Things To Know Before Passover Begins

You may have heard that Passover is approaching, but when is Passover 2016, exactly? Unlike some holidays, it's not on a set date every year. It begins the evening of Friday, April 22, and it ends the evening of Saturday, April 30 — at least it does in 2016. Passover always begins on the 15th of Nissan (on the Hebrew calendar) and runs through the 22nd, so if you are working off of a Western calendar, it will jump around from year to year.

Now that you know when Passover is, how much about the actual holiday do you know? Chances are you likely have little bits of information about its history that you have acquired over the years, but for many people the entire holiday can feel like a giant mystery. Either way, we can all probably use a little more knowledge, or at the very least, a quick brush up on the facts.

To that end, I am rounding up some of the most basic questions regarding Passover below. Whether you're wondering what this holiday is all about in general, or you're curious to know why it's called "Passover" in the first place, think of this as your crash course on Passover for beginners. But enough chit-chat, already — let's discuss all things Passover.

1. What is the story behind Passover?

Passover is essentially the celebration of the Israelites being freed from Ancient Egypt. To sum things up, the Bible states that God chose Moses to go to Egypt (his former home) and tell the Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave. When Pharaoh refused, God brought on a series of 10 plagues (think thousands of frogs, hail storms, and swarms of locusts) through the hand of Moses until the Pharaoh finally relented.

2. Why is it called "Passover"?

The final plague brought on the Egyptian people occurred when God told the Israelites to cover their door frames with the blood of lambs in order to protect their first borns. That evening, the first born of every Egyptian was killed, while the first borns of the Israelites were "passed over" thanks to the blood on the door frames.

3. How do you celebrate Passover?

Passover begins with Seder, a traditional dinner that families gather for to focus on the retelling of the Exodus story. Seder also includes drinking four cups of wine (which can be attributed to various reasonings, including being liberated from the Pharaoh's four evil decrees, the four Jewish exiles, and the amount of wine mentioned in Pharaoh's butler's dream in Genesis). There is also the presenting of a Passover Seder plate that contains six symbolic foods that assist in telling the Passover story: usually a lamb bone, parsley, egg, lettuce, charoset, and herbs.

4. What's the deal with matzo?

Even if you don't personally celebrate Passover, you may have noticed that your Jewish friends withhold from eating bread during the week, instead indulging in matzo. The reason for this is because the Bible states that the Israelites fled Egypt so quickly following God's final curse on the Pharaoh and his people that they didn't even have time for the bread in their ovens to finish rising. Now you know!

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