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Unusual Pesach Customs

Courtesy of the great kids Pesach site, here is an account of some ususual Pesach customs that you may not have heard of:

Pesach Headache. In 14th-century Spain, the Seder leader, prior to reciting ha lahma anya, walked around the table tapping the Seder plate three times on each participant’s head. With each person, the taps got progressively harder. Sephardic Jews still practice this peculiar custom, which they hope will encourage children to ask more questions. If you try this at home, people will definitely begin questioning you!

Smacking the Onions. Afghanis distribute green onions during the song “Dayenu” and hit each other with the stalks when the ninth stanza begins. Besides being hilarious to watch, this custom teaches text: Some have speculated that the ritual refers to when the Israelites yearned for Egyptian onions, instead of manna, while in the desert (Bemidbar 11:5-6). Seder participants scold themselves for the Israelites’ complaints by smacking onions when reading, “Even if You had supplied our needs in the desert for 40 years, but not fed us manna from heaven.”

Heavy Haroset. The mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon, and wine, which commemorates the bricks that Israelites made in Egypt, tastes earthier in some cultures. During America‘s Civil War, Jewish Union soldiers who found themselves at a Seder without ingredients for haroset included a real brick on their Seder plate. In 18th-century Salonika, Greece, people added chopped stone to their haroset, and some Moroccans included grated rock. Though interesting, most people chose to demolish this custom, and you can probably guess why.

A Customary Flood. Our tradition says the Israelites crossed the Red Sea on the seventh night of Pesach, and various Jewish groups commemorated this miracle by reenacting the drama. Some people poured buckets of water on the floor of their house, creating a miniature “sea,” and walked from one side of the room to the other. If you try this, be sure to do it on the seventh night of Passover, but we highly recommend getting permission from your parents first!

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