1. Passover Is the Most Widely Celebrated Jewish Holiday

The tables are set for the Seder at Chabad in Cancun, Mexico.
The tables are set for the Seder at Chabad in Cancun, Mexico.

There’s something about Passover, the first holiday given to the Jewish people by G‑d, that speaks deeply to the Jewish soul. According to the 2014 Pew Portrait of American Jews, the Passover Seder is celebrated by even more Jewish people than Yom Kippur and Chanukah. Looking for a Seder near you? Chabad has a Seder that’s right for you.

2. Passover for All!

Giving to those less fortunate is the hallmark of Judaism and the Jewish people. Before Passover, funds are collected to ensure that everyone can celebrate the Holiday of Freedom in style. The Jerusalem Talmud records that Jewish communities would make collections of maot chitim, literally “wheat money,” before Passover.1 To find to a local maot chitim fund, contact your local rabbi.

Learn more about the special mitzvah of maot chitim here.

3. Live Leaven Free

Bread is forbidden on Passover.
Bread is forbidden on Passover.

As Passover approaches, Jewish people can be found cleaning their houses, cars and offices. This is not a mere spring cleaning; it is a mission—to get rid of chametz, anything produced from grain that has risen. Even dishes are either purged or put away for the duration of the holiday, ensuring that no Jew owns or ingests even the smallest bit of chametz.

Read: What Is Chametz?

4. The Main Thing Is the Matzah

(Photo: Flash90)
(Photo: Flash90)

If you can do only one (or two) things to celebrate Passover, it’s this: eat a kezayit (a measure formally described as the size of an olive) of matzah2 after dusk on the first night of Passover, and then do it again on the next night. We lean while eating the matzah (as well as when drinking the four cups, and eating the korech sandwich and the afikoman) because, in times gone by, eating while reclining was a sign of true freedom. Extra points if you eat the round handmade matzah. Read: What Is Matzah?

5. The Most Popular Hebrew Book

The Haggadah, the text around which the Passover Seder is based, is the most popular book in the history of Jewish printing, having gone through thousands of editions. Amazingly, there is very little variance between versions. The Haggadahs used in Morocco are almost identical to those in Jewish homes in Munich, with the differences limited almost entirely to nuances in the vowels and the songs in the back of the book.

At its core, the Haggadah tells the story of how G‑d took our ancestors out of Egyptian slavery. As per the Torah’s command, we tell this story to our children (and ourselves) every single year, finding new depth and new meaning in every retelling.

Read: What Is a Haggadah?

6. The Coffee-Maker’s Haggadah

A 1933 edition of the now-famous Maxwell House Haggadah (Photo: Wiki Media)
A 1933 edition of the now-famous Maxwell House Haggadah (Photo: Wiki Media)

In 1932, Maxwell House, a leading coffee manufacturer, decided to print and distribute the now iconic Maxwell House Haggadah. There are more than 50 million of these Haggadahs in print. There was a two-year pause on the printing during World War II, due to paper shortages. Coffee is kosher for Passover provided that it is certified by a reputable rabbinic agency.

7. Fine Wine Is Divine

Throughout the Seder evening, everyone drinks four cups of (ideally red) wine. For some reason, there’s a persistent idea out there that Seder wine needs to be gloopy sweet stuff that tastes like cough syrup. At one time the idea that this kind of wine was part of a Jewish diet was so ingrained that Schapiro’s Wine advertised (in Yiddish) that their wine was so thick you could almost cut it with a knife! Thankfully, there are hundreds of high-quality kosher wines out there, so go out and get some happiness in a bottle—enough for every Seder participant to have four cups full. Read: Why Four Cups of Wine at the Seder?

8. Go Nuts!

Kids are a major part of the Passover celebration. The Seder begins with the children asking four classic questions, starting with “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The rest of the reading consists of the answer to the kids’ questions. How to keep them engaged? The rabbis of old had a solution: give them nuts. Not sure if nuts will do it for your progeny? Make sure that the Seder itself is so engaging that they stick around to see what happens next. Read: How to Make a Wild and Wonderful Seder

9. Four Squared

Did you ever notice how many elements of the Passover Seder come in groups of four? Four sons, four question, four cups of wine (in some homes, it feels like four hours until the food is served!) What’s the significance? The most common answer is that all these fours correspond to the four terms G‑d used when promising to take the people out of Egypt. Read: Dig Deeper Into the Four Cups

10. The Fifth Son

There are four sons spoken about in the Haggadah. Sure one is wise and one is wicked, but they’re all there at the Seder. But what about the Jew who doesn’t show up for the Seder at all? In a letter penned to Jews worldwide in 1957, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, urged every Jew to acknowledge and invite the “fifth son,” the Jew who would otherwise not be at the Seder, or even aware of Passover. Do you feel like the fifth son or daughter? There’s a spot for you at a Seder table. Find a seder near you.

11. Lamb, Anyone?

In ancient times, the center of the Passover celebration was the Passover lamb, which was sacrificed in the Holy Temple and then eaten with matzah and bitter herbs as a dessert at the end of the Passover meal. Roman invaders destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago, and we no longer bring the sacrifice. Today, we still eat the matzah and bitter herbs without the lamb, and then eat an extra piece of matzah, known as the afikoman, to remind us of the missing meat. Read more about why the sacrifice was discontinued.

12. World’s Largest Seder

In a prior year, volunteers and assistants help obtain, organize and prepare all of the necessities that go into a meal for some 1,500 people in a remote part of the world.
In a prior year, volunteers and assistants help obtain, organize and prepare all of the necessities that go into a meal for some 1,500 people in a remote part of the world.

For decades, Chabad has been hosting the world’s largest Seder in Kathmandu, Nepal, with an excess of 2,000 attendees. To host so many celebrants, they get shipments of 2,000 bottles of wine, 2,000 pounds of matzah and 3,000 units of gefilte fish on an average year. Read a historical look-back at the Seders in Nepal.

13. Coke on Passover?

A bottle of Coca-Cola with a unique "Kosher for Passover" cap, produced prior to Passover.(Photo: Coca-Cola)
A bottle of Coca-Cola with a unique "Kosher for Passover" cap, produced prior to Passover.(Photo: Coca-Cola)

Coca-Cola, America’s most popular drink, contains no wheat, so can it be consumed on Passover? The problem is that it often contains high-fructose corn syrup. In addition to being unhealthy, it is forbidden under the ban on kitniyot (legumes and beans) on Passover, which was accepted by all Ashkenazim and some Sephardim in the Middle Ages. The solution came in the form of a special run of Coke that contains sugar, with which the original Coke was actually produced. These bottles are easily recognizable by their yellow caps. There are those who drink the yellow-capped bottles all year long, enjoying the difference in taste. Learn more about kitniyot here.

14. One Week Later

The Baal Shem Tov taught that while Passover is the holiday of redemption of the Jews from Egypt, the eighth day of Passover is the day we celebrate the future redemption: the era of Moshiach. We celebrate this by ending the holiday with “Moshiach’s seudah,” a meal that contains four cups of wine and matzah. Read about Moshiach’s meal here.