Prepare For Passover With These Pertinent Terms

During the Jewish holiday of Passover, or Pesach, it is traditional to retell the story of the Israelites leaving slavery in Egypt. This springtime religious festival celebrates new life and new starts. Passover always begins on the 14th day of Nisan, which in the Jewish calendar is the first month of the religious year, although the dates of the holiday change in the Gregorian calendar that much of the Western world uses today.

Whether you have been invited to your first Seder, or you’re simply curious about this holiday, read on to learn more about Passover traditions. Let’s start with learning how to properly wish someone a “Happy Passover.”


If you’re wondering about the history of Passover itself, head over to this article to learn all this important Jewish holiday.

chag Pesach sameach

You can wish someone a “Happy Passover” by saying chag sameach, pronounced [ khag sah-meh-ahkh ]. This expression means “happy holiday.” If you want to make it a bit more Passover-specific, you can say chag Pesach sameach, pronounced [ khag pe-sahkh sahmeh-ahkh ], instead.

Can you guess what you might wish someone on Yom Kippur, another important Jewish holiday? Find out here.

While the greetings for Passover aren’t very specific, lots of traditions for this holiday are. One of the most important Passover traditions relates to food, as you’ll see on the next slide.

hametz or chametz

hametz or chametz

During the holiday of Passover, observant Jews don’t eat any hametz (or chametz). Hametz is anything made with leavening (yeast). That includes many baked goods like cookies and cakes. Hametz comes from the Hebrew ḥāmēṣ, meaning “that which is leavened.”

Because hametz is prohibited during Passover, people substitute a certain cracker. Do you know its name?


Matzo or matzoh is a flat, unleavened cracker made from water and wheat. It is eaten instead of traditional bread products during Passover. The matzo represents what the Israelites ate when they left Egypt, because they had to leave in such a hurry that the bread did not have time to rise.

Matzo is very bland and tasteless; it’s literally known as “the bread of affliction.” Fortunately, it is not the only traditional food playing a part in this holiday.


A Seder is a ceremonial dinner where the story of the Israelites leaving slavery in Egypt is told and a variety of traditional and symbolic foods are eaten. Passover Seders are typically held on the first and, in some traditions, second nights of the holiday.

The word Seder comes from the Hebrew sēdher, meaning “order” or “arrangement.” The name is a reference to the order of activities, which are preserved in an important text.


The Haggadah is a book that goes through all of the details of a Passover Seder. The word Haggadah comes from the Hebrew higgīdh, meaning “to narrate.”

Every Haggadah is slightly different. Some are ornate and have intricate illustrations, while others are shorter and more simplistic. However, they all share one thing in common: they tell one story.


Exodus is the English-language name for the second book of the Bible. According to Exodus, Moses begged the Pharaoh in Egypt to free the Israelite slaves. Pharaoh refused, and so God punished the Egyptians with plagues. Finally, Pharaoh agreed to free the Israelites. This is the story of the Exodus that Jewish people recount at the Seder.

Passover isn’t just about reading the story of Exodus in the Haggadah. There are also specific foods that symbolize parts of the story. Do you know what six items are set on a seder plate?  


One of the traditional foods eaten at the Passover Seder is haroseth or charoseth. There are many different recipes for this dish, but typically it is made with some combination of nuts, apples, wine, and spices. It is thought to symbolize the mortar that the Israelite slaves used to build in Egypt. This helps to explain the origin of the word haroseth, which comes from the Hebrew ḥarsīth, meaning “clay.”

A seder plate has symbolic value, as well as healthy value. Or should we say “nutritional”? Learn the difference between “healthy” and “nutritional.”

Haroseth is one of the six items that goes on the seder plate, a ceremonial dish used as part of the celebration.


Another item that goes on the seder plate is maror is a “bitter herb,” typically horseradish. The maror symbolizes the bitterness of slavery in Egypt. When you eat it, It is supposed to make you think about how hard the lives of the enslaved Israelites were.

The horseradish, or maror, isn’t the only bitter food that one finds on the seder plate.


Karpas is a piece of parsley, celery, or other green vegetable that is dipped into salt water. The fresh green karpas is meant to symbolize the hope of spring. The salt water is said to symbolize the tears of the enslaved Israelites in bondage. However, the ultimate origin and meaning of this tradition remains disputed.

Do you know the meaning of Elijah’s cup?

Elijah's cup

At a Passover Seder, it is customary to set a glass of wine aside for the prophet Elijah. This is known as Elijah’s cup. At one part of the ceremony, the door is opened for Elijah and he is invited to join the Seder.


After the story has been told and all the food has been eaten, then it is time to look for the afikomen. To the everyday eye, this may appear to be just another piece of matzo. But as part of the Passover Seder, this special piece of matzo is hidden by the host and the ceremony cannot be ended until it is found. Typically, the children present have to look for the afikomen and receive some kind of prize for finding it.

The word afikomen comes from the Greek epikṓmion, meaning “revel,” or, in other words, something delightfully festive. What better way to end a holiday celebration?


Now immerse yourself in the traditions and festivities of another holy time of the year, this time for Christians: learn all about Lent, Ash Wednesday, and more.

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