Passover 2020: When is the Jewish holiday and how will coronavirus affect it?

Families across the world are preparing themselves for the major Jewish holiday of Passover.

One of the most important festivals in the Jewish calendar, Passover is celebrated for eight days starting with the traditional ritual feast Seder.

During Passover, Jewish people commemorate the story of Moses leading them to freedom from slavery and number of rituals are observed to mark this.

Here is everything you need to know about the spring festival of Passover.

Passover 2020 is occurring amid the coronavirus pandemic

When is Passover?

This year, Passover starts at sundown on Wednesday, April 8 and lasts until nightfall on Thursday, April 16.

In Judaism, a day starts at nightfall and lasts until dusk the next day.

How will coronavirus affect Passover 2020?

Falling amid the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, Passover 2020 will be “exceptionally difficult”, the chief rabbi has admitted.

Ephraim Mirvis said the “ultimate family-orientated event” which usually sees several generations of families gather for dinner would be impossible where social distancing measures are in force.

Chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said Passover this year will be ‘exceptionally challenging’ due to coronavirus

Britain is currently on lockdown with gatherings of two or more banned and everyone told to remain at home except for job, shopping or medical essentials.

Mr Mirvis told BBC Radio 5 Live:“This year we will be in our own homes, separated from other members of families. What we do recognise is that this will be a one-off and for next year’s Passover it will be back to usual.”

What is Passover?

Celebrated by Jews since about 1300 BC, Passover, also known as Pesach, is a festival that commemorates the emancipation of Jewish people from Egyptian slavery.

More positively, it also celebrates the Jewish people’s freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses.

It lasts for either seven or eight days, depending on where you live, and begins on the 15th day of Hebrew month of Nisan.

Passover is a heavily family-orientated, historic festival

The holiday always starts with the Seder, a 15-step symbolic meal which is meant to tell the story of Passover.

During the ceremonial Passover meal families eat traditional foods such as matza bread and haroset, drink wine and read and talk about the Haggadah.

Leavened foods, known as chametz, are banned from being eaten, bought or kept during Passover and before the holiday begins families will clean the house from top to bottom to remove any traces of it.

This is to remember that when the Jews left Egypt they did so in such a hurry that the bread dough didn’t have time to rise, and so a major symbol of Passover is the traditional unleavened flatbread matzo.

For food to be kosher, it must therefore not contain anything with grains that have either risen or fermented. Some Ashkenazi Jews also avoid eating rice, beans, corn, lentils and peanuts. These foods are known as kitniyot.

The name Passover stems from the story of the Plagues of Egypt, in which God told the Israelites to daub lambs’ blood on their doors so he would know which houses to “pass over” to protect their first born sons from his final plague.

What is the Passover Seder?

The Passover Seder is a traditional meal consisting of symbolic foods which always takes place on the first night of Passover. Some Jewish communities also hold another Seder on the second night of Passover.

Traditions involve drinking four cups of wine, eating matza bread and eating specific foods from the the Passover Seder plate. A big part of the Seder is to encourage children to ask questions to keep their interest in Judaism.

The Passover Seder plate consists of:

  • Maror – bitter herbs representing the harshness of slavery endured by the Jews in Egypt.
  • Charoset – a sweet mixture representing the mortar Jews used to build the pyramids.
  • Karpas – vegetables which represent renewal and are often dipped into salt water at the beginning of the meal.
  • Zeroah – roasted lamb bone, representing the lamb offered in the Temple of Jerusalem.
  • Beitzah – a roasted hard boiled egg which is used to represent a symbol of mourning.


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