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Many of your average Americans are familiar with Easter, its history, its meaning, and when it is celebrated. Fewer average Americans are familiar with Passover, a Jewish holiday that also takes place in the springtime – typically in March or April, depending on the calendar.

The celebration of Passover occurred before the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Pasach, originally meaning “Passover,” was later adapted to mean “Easter” as well (“paschal”). Passover celebrates the Exodus, the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in ancient Egypt. God freed the Children of Israel by inflicting the ten plagues upon the Egyptians, which caused Pharaoh to release them from slavery and send them away. It is said that the Israelites left in such a hurry that they didn’t have time to let their bread rise, which is why Passover is known as the “Festival of Unleavened Bread.” Leavened goods are not consumed during Passover, so matzo (a thin, crispy cracker-like food) is eaten instead. Jews are instructed to remove all leavened goods from their homes before the first day of Passover – these goods are consumed, sold, or burned.

Originally, the focus of Passover was the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb (korban Pesach). This sacrifice was supposed to be made at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which is no longer standing, so a symbolic food is placed on the Seder plate (a roasted shankbone) and another symbolic food is eaten after the Seder meal (afikoman, a piece of matzo). The Seder is an elaborate meal and ceremony that is completed in a specific order. During the meal, the story of the Israelites’ flight from Egypt is retold using the Haggadah, a Jewish text that provides the instructions for the 15-part Seder meal. Special foods are consumed during each step of the meal, including maror and chazeret (to represent the bitterness of slavery), matzo (the “poor person’s bread”), charoset (a mix of apples, nuts, and wine that represents the mortar Jewish slaves used to cement bricks), and salt water (to represent the tears shed by Jewish slaves). Four cups of wine are consumed during the meal and represent the four expressions of deliverance promised by God in Exodus: “I will bring out, I will deliver, I will redeem, and I will take.”

What does any of this have to do with Easter? For starters, it is thought that the Last Supper was held on Passover, creating what Christians know as Maundy Thursday. According to the New Testament, Jesus used the matzo and wine at the Last Supper/Passover to represent his body and blood. Easter and Passover share many symbols and generally occur close to each other on the calendar. Easter eggs come from the Jewish tradition of eating an egg during Seder, which symbolizes a sacrifice offered in the Temple in Jerusalem. Because Christianity is considered to be an offshoot of Judaism, it can be assumed that the first Christians didn’t have any holidays of their own and celebrated Christ’s death and resurrection at a time close to Passover.

This post was written by a guest contributor for Drawing Near to God Ministries, featuring Bible studies and Christian daily devotionals for women.

About Katie Erbach

Katie Erbach is a freelance writer who is interested in contributing to just about any blog who will have her. Katie can be found online through her Google+ Profile. She currently lives in Chicago with her fiance, Jim. Katie's passions include blogging, hiking, reading (but nothing sad), listening to music, and baking anything with chocolate in it!

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