Passover is a holiday that both Jews and Christians have some experience with. It commemorates the story in Exodus of the Jews being freed from slavery in Egypt. God inflicts ten plagues on the Egyptians (everything from frogs to darkness) but the last, and worst, is the killing of all of the first-born children in Egypt. Even the animals were not spared.
To protect the Children of Israel, God tells Moses to have them paint the blood of a lamb on their doorpost. This way, they would be “passed over” (hence the name of the holiday) when this plague happened. After this, Pharaoh changed his mind and told them all to get out….now. They were afraid that he might change his mind so they took what they had and left in a hurry. Moses told them not to wait for the bread to rise and just take it with them. This is why unleavened bread like matzoh plays such an important role.
Once they were away, the Pharoah changed his mind and sent his soldiers after them. At the Red Sea, God parted the waves and they were allowed to cross safely. The Pharoah’s soldiers tried to follow them but the sea closed in and they drowned.
What happened next was a lot of walking as Moses and everyone else trekked through the desert for forty years. God took care of them by providing manna for them to eat and giving Moses the Torah AND leading them to the land that they had been promised.
As you can see, this was a pretty big deal and something that should be commemorated. Passover is celebrated to different degrees by different people. In the most observant households, all leavened items are removed from the house and it is cleaned from top to bottom. Separate dishes (and maybe even kitchens) are used to prepare all of the food and only items that are Kosher for Passover are used. Those who celebrate to a lesser degree may just try to not eat leaven for the duration, but not cleanse their house quite as thoroughly.
A seder is held on the first two nights of Passover. This seder has a very special order and ritual and retells the story of Exodus using a haggadah, which is a special book that is basically a script for the evening. Over the course of the night, four cups of wine are drunk and a seder plate is set with specific items that illustrate the story. There is even a part for the youngest child to play when they ask four questions about the night. Yep, I know that because at my first seder I was technically the youngest! Over achiever that I am, I tried my best to learn the questions in Hebrew. Something I don’t recommend you do…too stressful!
That is just a sampling of the intricate parts of the Passover seder. There is a lot more to this night and different people put an emphasis on different parts. It all depends on who your hosts are! The Passover seder is often opened up to non-Jewish people because it is seen as a chance to share and educate and re-tell the story (which is the point of the holiday in the first place).
All of the ones I’ve been to have taken into account my “newbie” status and have tried to make sure I can follow along and get what is happening. Trust me, after one experience you’ll have a much better understanding of what Passover is all about then this poor narrative can give you.