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*Migration Histories > Jewish > Culture and Festivals
* Origins of the Festival 
 
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An image of Pharaoh
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An image of Pharaoh, from a Haggadah, or Passover prayer book, published c.1925.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (JML) 1984.118.3
The Jewish year is punctuated by a number of major festivals. One of these is the spring festival of Passover, or Pesach, which recalls and celebrates the liberation of the Jews from slavery to the Pharaohs in Egypt.

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Cover of a recipe book produced by one of the best known producers of kosher food in Britain
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Cover of a recipe book produced by one of the best known producers of kosher food in Britain, showing a table set for the *Seder. Lloyd Rakusen, a watchmaker, started his matzo business as a sideline in 1900, making matzos for Passover in the kitchen behind his watchmaking premises in Leeds.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (JML) 1987.39.35
Passover is a time of intense preparation in Jewish families. The festival lasts for eight days and, during this time, no bread or products containing ordinary flour or yeast can be eaten. Instead only unleavened bread, or matzah, can be eaten, as a reminder of the flat bread baked in haste by the Israelites as they hurriedly escaped from Egypt. Matzah is made using a special flour which has been carefully supervised from its harvest through to being milled and packaged. Special Passover recipes, using ground matzah - or matzah meal - instead of flour, are used to make special cakes and biscuits.

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Pieces from a Passover tea service, brought to England by immigrants in the 1880s from Poland, where it was probably made.
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Pieces from a Passover tea service, brought to England by immigrants in the 1880s from Poland, where it was probably made.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (JML) 1998.33.1
Food containing yeast is called chometz, and all traces must be cleared out of the house before Passover begins. The house is thoroughly spring cleaned, and all unsuitable foods thrown or given away. Only food made specially, and approved by religious authorities as 'kosher for Passover', can be eaten. Special crockery and cutlery, to be used only at Passover, are taken out of store.

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A page from an illustrated Haggadah
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A page from an illustrated Haggadah.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (JML) 1984.118.3
The highlight of Passover is the opening meal or Seder, which takes place in the home on the first two nights of the festival. Many children look forward all year to the special Seder meals, with their distinctive rituals. At the Seder the story of the exodus from Egypt is read from a special prayer book called a Haggadah. Often lavishly illustrated, Haggadot (plural of Haggadah) come in many styles, and are sometimes handed down through families from generation to generation.

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Part of a late 19th-century wooden tray decorated with images of the ten plagues of Egypt, probably for use during Passover
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A late 19th-century wooden tray decorated with images of the ten plagues of Egypt, probably for use during Passover
* Moving Here catalogue reference (JML) 1988.201
The Seder menu contains many special foods, all with ritual significance. Haroset for instance, made of chopped nuts, apples and cinnamon, recalls the mortar used by the slaves in Egypt for building. Parsley dipped in salt water recalls the tears shed by the Hebrews in slavery. All these foods are displayed on special Seder plates, often decorated with inscriptions, illustrations and symbols.

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A communal Seder.
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A communal Seder at Norwood residential home c. 1965
* Moving Here catalogue reference (JML) 971.1
As with many Jewish festivals, children play a special role. One part of the Haggadah, called 'the four questions', is read by the youngest child present. During the evening a game is played where the children have to find a hidden piece of matzah, the *Afikoman. The evening ends with the singing of some traditional songs, which everyone can join in.

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Creators: Carol Seigel

 
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