Festival facts: Pesach

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By Louise Tellamteacher and freelance writer

Find out about the background and celebrations involved in the festival of Pesach

pesach

What is Pesach?

Pesach, or Passover, is the oldest and greatest Jewish festival. Essentially a spring time, family festival, lasting seven or eight days, it is central to Jewish identity and faith. It takes place on the 15th day of the Jewish month Nissan (between 15 March and 30 April). While it marks the beginning of the harvest, this is of less importance than the history that is the focus of the celebrations. The festival ceremonies recall the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and symbolise the struggle of the Jewish people to be released from bondage, to find their own land and to find freedom.

The origins of Pesach

It is likely that the origin of the festival of Pesach lies in two harvest festivals, celebrated prior to the exodus. Following lambing time, shepherding families observed a festival of thanksgiving and sacrificed a lamb, offering to God something that was of great value to them. After the sacrifice, at nightfall, the lamb was roasted and shared with everyone present. Certain rituals were adhered to – blood from the lamb was painted on to the tent posts as a protection against bad luck, none of the bones of the animal were broken and all the meat was eaten before sunrise.

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