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3 quirky ways Passover will be celebrated this year

Posted April 24

Passover, a Jewish holiday requiring participants to eat special meals and participate in religious rituals for eight days, begins April 22. (Deseret Photo)

Jews have been celebrating Passover for centuries, and modern life has influenced the ritual in surprising ways.

The eight-day holiday, celebrated this year from sundown on Friday, April 22, to Saturday evening, April 30, commemorates the Israelites' escape from slavery in Egypt.

Jews gather for special meals, or seders, on the first two nights of Passover and eat a restricted diet throughout the week. They also recite the Haggadah, "a liturgy that describes in detail the story of the exodus from Egypt," according to Chabad.org.

These key parts of the holiday remain in place as other traditions evolve to fit contemporary society. For example, growing interest in gluten-free diets partially inspired a change this year to dietary restrictions.

Here are three unique ways Passover could be observed this year:

1. With a vacation

Passover is an opportunity to reconnect with friends and loved ones, as Jewish families come together to share meals. Increasingly, these gatherings take place in exotic locales, according to The New York Times.

"In recent years, luxury hotels and cruise lines have begun to offer packages for those looking to get away, eat gourmet kosher-for-Passover food, swim, gamble and golf — and pay as much as $5,000 a person for the weeklong indulgence," the article noted.

Guests on a Passover-themed trip enjoy typical vacation attractions, such as sunbathing and performers, while also having the opportunity to hear from acclaimed Jewish speakers, such as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of England.

Although these trips have been criticized as an extravagance, "defenders say leaving home allows for reunions of large extended families (and) eases the burden of having to cook special, unleavened meals for a week," the Times reported.

2. At an interfaith seder

Interfaith seders are a contentious development in the Jewish community, because Christians have been criticized in the past for co-opting the sacred tradition.

"Christians may desire to become more Christ-like or to develop deeper understanding of Christian roots, but hosting a Jewish Passover outside of the context of Jewish relationships does more harm than good," Religion Dispatches reported in 2014.

Some Jews have welcomed outside interest in their holiday and avoided conflict by hosting a seder for outsiders before Passover begins. For example, around 100 Muslims and Jews shared a meal in New York City on April 14, The Times of Israel reported.

"Participants read from a custom-made haggadah, which consisted of both traditional Passover texts and modern additions such as Bob Marley's reggae classic, 'One Love,'" the article noted.

3. Over a plate of sushi

Throughout Passover, Jews avoid leavened foods, including wheat and oats. "The only approved way to consume grains is in the form of matzo, a cracker-like food that symbolizes the Jewish flight from slavery, when there was no time for bread to rise," Reuters reported.

However, Passover menus may look different this year in some Jewish homes. Leaders in the Conservative Jewish movement updated a dietary restriction in November, paving the way for platters of sushi and peanut-based sauces.

"The change … lifts a rule in place since the 13th century that prohibited Ashkenazi Jews outside Israel from eating a group of foods known as kitniyot — rice, corn, peanuts, beans and other legumes — during Passover," Reuters reported.

Email: kdallas@deseretnews.com Twitter: @kelsey_dallas

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