The story of Passover hasn’t changed in the last 3,000 years. But that doesn’t mean you won’t have anything new to discuss! Here are some little-known Passover facts to spice up your seder.
- During Passover, some vegetarians use a broiled beet instead of a lamb bone on their seder plate. The beet, bloodred in color, serves as a reminder of the Paschal sacrifice. Others use an avocado pit instead of a lamb bone on their seder plate.
- According to tradition, Miriam gave water from her well to sustain the Israelites in the desert. Some people honor Miriam by placing a cup for her at the seder table and pouring water from their glasses into her cup.
- In the mid 1930s, Maxwell House started giving out Haggadot to clarify that coffee beans are kosher for Passover, and thus prevent a dip in coffee sales. Distributed nearly every year since, there are now more than 50 million copies in print.
- During the Civil War, despite the divide, Union and Confederate Jews bonded together during Passover, even inviting their adversaries to family seders.
- Jewish Civil War soldiers without ingredients for charoset put a real brick on their seder plate. In 18th-century Salonika, Greece, people added chopped stone to their charoset, and some Moroccans included grated rock.
- Many Jews were in synagogue for Passover when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The American Jewish Historical Society notes that synagogue bimahs "were quickly draped in black and, instead of Passover melodies, the congregations chanted Yom Kippur hymns."
- According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world’s largest matzah ball was unveiled in Tucson, Arizona, in 2010. Weighing in at 488 pounds, this giant matzah ball was made from more than 1,000 eggs and 125 pounds of matzah meal.
- In the British territory of Gibraltar, Jews actually mix the dust of bricks into their charoset, a symbol of the mortar used to hold together the brick walls the Jews built in Egypt.
- Coca-Cola makes a special batch of kosher-for-Passover Coke with real sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup, because corn products are forbidden during the holiday. Look for the bottles with yellow caps.
- In Vilna, Poland, during World War I, it was very difficult to find kosher wine. Rabbinical authorities made a special announcement to allow sweet tea to be substituted for the traditional four cups of wine during the seder.
- Centuries ago during Passover, Jewish people living in the Sahara abandoned their fortified villages and marched into the desert, in memory of the first Passover.
- Manischewitz alone sells more than 1.5 million jars of gefilte fish nationally and internationally — that’s almost one jar for every 10 Jews in the world.
- Persian Jews distribute green onions during the song Dayenu and hit each other with the stalks when the ninth stanza begins.
On behalf of everyone here at UJA-Federation, best wishes for a happy Passover to you and yours.