This is when Passover 2020 begins - and how lockdown could impact celebrations

By Helen Johnson
Tuesday, 7th April 2020, 3:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th April 2020, 3:21 pm
Passover is an important festival in the Jewish calendar, with celebrations set to begin this week (Photo: Shutterstock)
Passover is an important festival in the Jewish calendar, with celebrations set to begin this week (Photo: Shutterstock)

Passover is an important festival in the Jewish calendar, with celebrations set to begin this week.

But how is Passover celebrated among Jewish communities and how will the current UK coronavirus lockdown impact this year’s festival?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is Passover?

The Feast of Passover, which is known as Pesach in Hebrew, commemorates the liberation of the Children of Israel, who were led out of Egypt by Moses.

Jews have celebrated Passover since around 1300 BC according to the Book of Exodus.

The Children of Israel had been slaves in Egypt for 210 years, and God promised that he would release them from slavery.

However, this was not before Pharaoh had refused their release and God had visited ten plagues on Egypt to demonstrate his power - (Exodus 3: 19-20).

What does it signify?

Passover - sometimes called The Festival of Freedom - is a celebration of freedom.

It’s also a pilgrim festival, and is one of the three occasions in the year when Jews were to go to the Temple in Jerusalem, according to the commandments of the Torah.

Passover can also be called the Festival of Spring, and was an agricultural festival marking the beginning of the cycle of production and harvest during the time the Jews lived in ancient Palestine.

It symbolises hope and new life, alongside the importance of starting afresh.

How is it celebrated?

Every year, the Feast of Passover is celebrated in order to commemorate the liberation of the Children of Israel.

The celebrations last for seven or eight days, depending on where you live.

In Israel, Passover lasts for seven days, with the first and seventh days observed as full days of rest, known as yom tov.

The middle five days are intermediate holidays, known as hol ha-moed.

Outside of Israel, Passover lasts for eight days. The first two and last two days are observed as full days of rest.

Although the Torah says to celebrate Passover for seven days, in the past Jews in the Diaspora lived too far away from Israel to receive word as to when to begin their observances, so an additional day of celebration was added in order to be on the safe side.

When is this year’s Passover?

This year’s Passover begins on Wednesday 8 April and ends in the evening of Thursday 16 April.

Will the UK lockdown impact Passover celebrations?

The highlight of Passover celebrations is usually the first two nights, when friends and family gather together for ritual Seder meals.

Special plates and cutlery are used which are kept for Passover.

However, in the UK, friends and family will not be able to congregate for Seder this year due to the lockdown. Only those already living within the household will be able to take part in celebrations.

Each of the components of the Passover meal is also symbolic, and the food is eaten in ritual order, with its meaning and symbolism discussed.

However, it may be more difficult than usual to get hold of food items this year, or to get out of the house to get the items needed.

In London, Deliveroo has teamed up with Jewish charity Chabad Lubavitch UK to sell kits featuring all the components needed for Seder.

Special wine or grape juice, matzah and a box of six pots each containing one of the ritual foods that play a part in the service, a roll-up Seder plate, a wine cup and an English-language ‘Haggadah’, are included in the kits and will be delivered, free of charge, from Chabad Lubavitch centres around London.