Little known interesting facts about Passover
The following list was presented by Marilyn Schwartz at an Orlando Chapter of Hadassah meeting last year. The information so delighted and fascinated the members that passing it along to all became a priority.
1. Coca-Cola makes a special batch of Kosher Coke for Passover. While Coke is generally a kosher product, the dietary laws tighten during the Passover holiday making high-fructose corn syrup a no-no for observant Jews (it really should be a no-no for everybody all the time, but that’s neither here nor there). In response, Coca-Cola pumps out a batch of limited edition Coke that uses (gasp) real sugar instead of the kitniyot corn. Look for bottles with yellow caps on them to be sure you’re getting the correct one.
2. The world’s largest Passover seder takes place in Nepal, of all places. Each year members of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement hold their “Seder on Top of the World” in Kathmandu for Jewish locals and travelers alike (I’m guessing more the latter than the former). Last year they had around 2,000 people attend the festivities, and between the flowing wine and the thin air, it was quite the party.
3. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated during Passover. According to the American Jewish Historical Society, many Jews were in synagogue for the holiday when news of Lincoln’s assassination broke. Altars in temples “were quickly draped in black and, instead of Passover melodies, the congregations chanted Yom Kippur hymns. Rabbis set aside their sermons and wept openly at their pulpits, as did their congregants.” Sadly, a time that was supposed to be full of celebration became one of mourning.
4 Flogging fun at Passover. Jews from Iran and Afghanistan have a particularly lively custom in which they whip each other with oversize scallions. Before the song begins, each seder participant stands, takes a scallion and starts whacking the other members of the feast. In some families, one scallion is passed around the table while each person takes a turn whipping. There is some debate about where the custom originates. Many believe it is a way to mimic the whips of slave drivers in Egypt. Seder participants whip one other as a way to scold one another for desiring any aspect of their lives of enslavement.
5. Crossing the Red Sea in Poland. In the Polish town of Gora Kalwaria, Hasidic Jews mark Passover by re-enacting the crossing of the Red Sea. To make it as realistic as they can, they pour water on the floor, lift up their coats and recite the names of the towns they would cross. They also make sure to raise a glass at each mention of a town and offer thanks to God for being able to reach their destination.
6. Break a dish for Passover. Many Ethiopian Jews, who for hundreds of years endured persecution in their homeland because of their unique religious rites, left Ethiopia in two secret airlifts in 1984 and 1991. During Passover, to commemorate their past and celebrate renewal, some Ethiopian Jews break all their dishes and cookware and make new ones. The tradition is in keeping with the hope for emancipation and redemption that the holiday signifies.
7. The first American edition of the Haggadah was published in 1837. The Haggadah is the book or text Jews read from during Passover. It tells the origins of the holiday and explains how the seder is supposed to proceed. Solomon Henry Jackson, an English-born American Jew, published the first American edition of the Haggadah in 1837 in New York. Jackson had moved to the city in the 1820s to establish the first Hebrew printing press, and The Jew, a monthly newspaper and the first Jewish periodical in the United States. One could say Jackson was the original member of the Jewish media elite.
8. And if that’s not enough facts about Passover... The traditional Passover song “Dayenu” literally means “it would have been enough” and lists the 15 gifts and miracles given to the Jewish people by God in the Book of Exodus. The idea that each blessing would be enough on its own, even without further or more profound blessings, is a theme presented throughout the holiday.