Happy Pesach to everyone!
Pesach (or Passover) is the annual springtime Jewish festival, were families get together and remember Jewish people escaping from slavery in Ancient Egypt. The festival lasts for 7 or 8 days, and there are lots of preparations that happen beforehand.
Everyone’s Passover may well be a little bit different this year, as families may not be able to get together as usual. How have you gone about your Passover celebrations this year? Have you had a “Zoom Seder”?
One of the main preparations is that no speck of chametz (yeast) may be left in the house, which means households will usually have a big clean of their kitchens – often a big clean of the whole house. Have you done your big Passover clean? Why not share with us a picture so we can marvel at your sparkling kitchens.
Our Programming Administrator Andrea has put plastic over her kitchen surfaces to make sure they are extra clean, and so that no speck of yeast is left!
One important part of the passover meal is the Matzah bread, (for those unfamiliar, an unleavened bread, a little bit like a cracker) and most people have special covers for this bread – if you have one, show us yours! Does it have a story behind it?
At the Passover meal, there are 3 Matzahs put on the table. One of the Matzahs is broken, and half (called the Afikomen) is put into an Afikomen bag like the one below, and hidden somewhere around the house. Children at the Passover meal have to find the Afikomen and often get a reward for doing so! The Afikomen bag below has been monogrammed with someone’s initial, this one is from our collection, but we would love to see your Afikomen bags.
The seder plate is also a very important part of passover, and has the 6 special symbolic foods laid out. You can see a gorgeous example from our collection below.
These are: green leafy vegetable, bitter herbs, charoset (a mixture of apple and walnuts), egg, and lamb bone, which symbolise various parts of the Passover story. Do you have a special seder plate? We would love to see it.
If you don’t celebrate Passover, are there any foods that are meaningful in your culture or religion? We would love to hear about them!
Passover is an important time of year for Jewish communities, and people in our oral history collections tell lots of stories of their memories of passover, for example, below is a quote from Alice Mesrie of her memories of passover in Aleppo, where she spent her childhood. She remembers that her family’s pots and pans were sent out to be repainted every Passover, and that they had a different set of plates specially for Passover – just like many families today. Do you have a special set of Passover crockery?
Alice Mesrie lived in the old town in Aleppo, before moving to Manchester with her husband shortly after their wedding. She describes every week, making the bread dough, and then sending it out to be baked in a big communal oven, after which the bread was brought back to people’s homes. Below is a quote of her talking about her childhood.
“Every family, two or three times a week, mixed the flour, put the yeast in it, and then they portioned it out and the man came from the oven place (fullum, they call it) and collected the bread and baked it and brought it back. You rolled the dough into balls and gave it to him.Alice Mesrie, talking about her childhood in Aleppo (Syria)
They made a sort of oven out of clay, or something – I don’t know how they did it-—and they cooked over charcoal. And for Saturday they had to prepare their pans, which were made of copper, but they were painted over. They would send them out to be done, to be repainted (biyaz, they called it) so that they came back like new. That was once a year, for Passover. On Fridays they would prepare the food, and put it on the tabacha – the cooker – and they knew how to cook, and how much charcoal to add, and put rags around it, and leave it until the next day. Then they would take it out, and it was marvelous. Very slow cooking. And all the everyday cooking, the frying and everything, was done over charcoal”
Mr and Mrs Goldstone in our oral history collection remembers young Jewish people parading round Heaton Park (a popular picnic spot) when she was younger, wearing their smart new clothes and perhaps even meeting a special someone!
Cheetham Village was the beginning and if it was summer time to Bury Old Road along theJack Goldstone and his wife reminiscing about people walking round north Manchester over Passover
front of the lake was a very famous spot. And every Jewish holiday such as Passover time it
was full of young Jewish people.
When you got a new outfit.
You, that’s where you went, you went to, you walked to Heaton Park in effect.
As we are still thinking about picnics, please continue sending us your picnic foods, as well as any of the activities mentioned above so that we can add them to our Virtual Picnic. Here is a list of things you could do:
- Send us a picture of your kitchen prepped for Pesach
- Send us a picture of your Matzah cover, and any stories behind it
- Send us a picture of your Seder plate, and any stories behind it
- Make your own Matzah cover or Afikomen bag, inspired by our examples from the collection
- Tell us about any foods that are meaningful in your culture or religion, or make these foods and send us a picture
As always, get in touch with Dara (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Laura (email@example.com) to share your stories and creations