10 weird things you do on Passover

Here are the items that sit in my pantry during the 8 days of Passover, and then continue to sit for the rest of the year, completely untouched. These snacks dont discriminate; they are equally terrible every day of the year.

Photo credit: Maya Wernick

Here are the items that sit in my pantry during the 8 days of Passover, and then continue to sit for the rest of the year, completely untouched. These “snacks” don’t discriminate; they are equally terrible every day of the year.

Passover is the strangest holiday. It took me a while to realize this since I went about 14 years without trying to explain it to anyone else. Basically, Jews from around the world celebrate their freedom by eating the food of slaves for eight days.

The holiday takes place in the Hebrew month of Nissan, which usually falls in the Gregorian month of April. Passover lasts 8 days, with the first two days being considered the holiest days. On those days, people celebrate by avoiding leavened bread and having dinners at which the Exodus story is told and special foods are eaten to symbolize aspects of the story.

The holiday celebrates the Jews’ escape from slavery in Egypt and remembers the struggles that they faced at these times. It also strives to acknowledge that while we are celebrating freedom, there are many people around the world that are still not free, as an estimated 45.8 million people around the world are still enslaved, according to the Global Slavery Index.

Once I reached this epiphany that not everybody goes through the Passover struggles every year, I decided to make a list of all of the weird things that people do on Passover, with no questions asked.

1. Clean your entire house with a feather

Traditionally, people are supposed to rid their houses of bread and anything else remotely tasty by brushing everything with a feather. Now, while this may seem like a lovely tradition, it is actually the biggest waste of time I’ve ever seen. It took Moses 40 years of desert wandering to find the Promised Land, and it’s going to take us another 40 years to clean up all of the dang chametz

2. Purposely break the world’s most crumbly substance into even more crumbs

If you are not covered in little white flecks of matzah by the end of the seder, you definitely did something wrong. This tends to be the case with all Passover foods; most of them are either already chopped into little crumbs, or collapse upon any human contact.

3. Eat gefilte fish

It’s a meatloaf made of fish that comes in a jar filled with its own gelatinous juices. Need I say more?

4. Washing hands by just pouring water over them

We do this twice, and I promise you it has no real sanitary purpose. After each wash, I feel dirtier than when we started.

5. Beat our family members with leeks

Yes, you read that right. This usually happens in Sephardic homes, or Jews from Spain, Portugal and some parts of the Middle East. People sing (scream) a song that translates to “WE’VE HAD ENOUGH” and smack their family with onion swords as if this is their final duel.

6. Pretend that apples and nuts are bricks and mortar

I never really realized how weird charoset was until my non-Jewish friend asked me what the “brown stuff” was and I instinctively told her it represented the manual labor of my people.

7. Eat the same thing for “dessert” that you just ate for dinner

The afikomenwhich is the piece of matzah that is hidden for the kids to find later, is somehow considered dessert, even though we ate the same thing before and during dinner. I think this is because every other Passover dessert tastes like slightly sugary cardboard, so we just eat a bland cracker instead and call it a night.

8. Pour a cup of wine for a nonexistent person

On Passover, a glass of wine is poured for “Elijah the Prophet.” Until I was about seven or eight years old I truly believed that a ghost-man came into my grandparents’ house and took a sip of wine. This was until one sad day in 2009 when I walked in on my grandpa drinking from Elijah’s Cup, and I realized that this tradition was just another excuse for the adults to drink more wine.

9. Get creative with snacks

I have eaten more bananas in the past week than I have this entire year. The best motivation to get healthy is to fill your house with sawdust-like cookies, cakes that are a poor excuse for a food, much less cake, and boxes and boxes of flavorless crackers.

10. Wearing masks that represent terrible things

Not everyone does this, but in my family and many others, when retelling the Passover story, we wear foam masks that represent the 10 horrible things that God inflicted upon the Pharaoh that was keeping the Jews hostage as slaves. Lucia Barker ’18, who is not Jewish, put it, “When I saw all of those masks I was so confused. I thought there were people having a party that I wasn’t invited too.” Well, of course, Lucia! Nothing screams “party” like a black and white mask that says “DEATH OF THE FIRSTBORN.”