8 Unique Passover Customs You Might Want To Adopt At Your Own Seder Table

No matter where you are in the world for Passover, there just some universal customs associated with the holiday. Think: stale matzah, dipping a vegetable in salt water, the afikomen hunt etc. These things are what unite Jews as a people, allowing them to maintain a (semi) consistent culture over the last 2000 years or so. That being said, not all Jewish customs are created equal and, depending on your ethnic roots, you may have one or two unique Passover customs that your neighbor might not observe. In honor of the upcoming Festival of Freedom, here are eight special customs (or “minhagim” as they are called in Hebrew) that some communities practice during Passover.

Eating legumes (aka “Kitniyot”):

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This is perhaps the most well-known of all the special Passover customs out there. Jews don’t eat chametz (leavened bread products) on the holiday, but Ashkenazi Jews (usually of Eastern European descent) are also forbidden from eating legumes such as rice, beans, corn, peas, lentils and chickpeas. No such restriction is in place for Sephardim, Jews who can usually trace their heritage back to Spain, Portugal, and the Spanish Inquisition.


Flushing wine down the toilet:

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This one was taught to us by none other than actor David Mazouz, the 17-year-old star of Fox’s “Gotham.” During our interview with him, he told us that during the portion of the seder when you drip 10 drops out of your wine glass to symbolize the ten plagues in the Passover story, his father takes that wine and flushes it down the toilet. We don’t know where this custom originates from, but Mazouz said that both his mother and father who are Greek and Tunisian respectively practiced it growing up.


An onion whipping:

Guy Montag/Flickr

Much of the seder is meant to symbolize the Jews’ enslavement in Egypt (think: the salt water during Karpas represent tears, and the charoset symbolizes the mortar used in the Jews’ slave labor.) However, in some places of the Middle East, Jewish families take this one step further by literally hitting each other with scallions (green onions) while singing the dayenu song. This custom is indigenous to countries like Persia and Afghanistan and is meant to signify the whips used by the Egyptians on their Jewish captives. Don’t worry, though, if you choose to take on this custom, you’ll only be hit lightly with the onion frond.


Tasty, tasty brick dust:

You thought the one above was strange? Then, you obviously haven’t been to a seder in Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. The Jews here go hardcore by adding a unique ingredient to their charoset, brick dust! Yes, they don’t want to just symbolize the brick and mortar used to build the Egyptian cities, they want to taste it too!


A slippery tradition:


For the Jews of the Polish town of Góra Kalwaria, talking about the splitting of the Red Sea isn’t enough. They need to reenact it as well by pouring water on the floor on the seventh day of the holiday. They lift up their coats and recite the towns they would pass in their region of the country. As they do so, they raise a glass and thank God for allowing them “safe passage.”


Mazel Tov?

Ethiopians Jews have many different customs that Ashkenazi Jews and Sephardi Jewish from different countries. (For example, they didn’t historically celebrate Chanukah.) They also didn’t have things like haggadahs, but still observed Passover and would only use the Bible to discuss the story of Exodus as you do at the annual seder. One Ethiopian tradition had the mother of a family destroying all the earthenware and making new ones in order to symbolize a “break” from the past. On the morning before the seder, Ethiopian Jews would slaughter a lamb (a major part of the Passover story) and also refrain from eating dairy products like cheese and yogurt.


That’s the way the matzah crumbles:

Jews from Syria and North Africa (Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and Libya) break the middle matzah (during “yachatz”) into the shapes of Hebrew letters, which hold Kabbalistic significance such as the 10 holy emanations of God.


Waste not, wine not:

Leaving out a cup of wine for the Prophet Eliyahu Hanavi (aka “Elijah”) is a common practice among all Jewish people on Passover and offers a fun game for the kids who inspect it the next morning to see if he came to drink any in the night. It’s almost the equivalent of leaving out milk and cookies for Santa Claus on Christmas. While most people just dispose the wine the day after, Moroccan Jews of Marrakesh have been known to cook with it.



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