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Passover is a Jewish holiday that begins at sunset on the 14th day of the Jewish calendar month "Nisan." This year, Passover begins on April 16th. The holiday celebrates the Jewish people's emancipation from slavery during the Pharaoh's rule in Egypt. It is also a somber remembrance of the hardship that the Jews endured before achieving freedom.
The story of Passover begins when the Jews, forced into slavery, worked ceaselessly to build some of the great cities of Egypt. The Pharaoh, who felt threatened by the sheer number and strength of the slaves, pronounced that every Jewish boy be thrown into the river Nile. Only one survived. When Moses grew up, God told him that he must free the Jewish people from their miserable lives as slaves. According to the story, after several failed attempts at persuasion, God created ten plagues to fall upon the Egyptians. During the final plague, darkness engulfed the Pharaoh's land and the first- born child of every Egyptian family perished. A lamb was sacrificed, and its blood was placed on the door of every Jewish household, indicating that the Angel of Death pass over the home. For this reason, the annual holiday is named "Passover."
Eventually, the Pharaoh freed the Jews, but soon changed his mind. Stopped at the edge of the sea, the Jews had nowhere to go as the Egyptians descended upon them. God performed a miracle, and the sea parted, allowing the slaves to escape. As the Pharaoh's men charged forth, the sea closed up, and the pursuers were drowned. At long last, the Jews were free.
Every year, Jewish families and friends pay tribute to their history by joining together for a Passover dinner called a "seder." Prior to the seder, Jewish homes are spotlessly cleaned. All bread, and any other leavened food, are discarded. This act acknowledges the time when Jews, given a brief window of opportunity by the Pharaoh, made bread for the exodus, but couldn't wait for it to rise. For this reason, the unleavened bread called matzah is served at the seder.
During the seder dinner, the Passover story is recounted from a book called the "Haggadah." A special seder plate adorns the table and contains several food items. A lamb bone symbolizes the sacrificial lamb used to protect the Jewish homes from the plague. Bitter herbs, usually horseradish, is a reminder of the bitter life encountered by the slaves. Haroset, a mixture of apples, nuts, honey, wine, and cinnamon, resembles the clay used by the slaves in building the great cities. Parsley, and a roasted egg, stand for the spring season of Passover. And finally, a bowl of salt water, in which the greens are dipped, symbolizes the tears shed by the slaves.