Monday at sundown marks the first day of Passover, one of the Jewish religion’s most sacred holidays. Thousands will commemorate the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. Here are nine interesting facts about the weeklong celebration:
1. Food that contains yeast is prohibited during Passover. This includes soy sauce. Soy sauce contains wheat-gluten as one of the ingredients.
2. To symbolize the tears shed as a result of slavery, one Passover tradition includes dipping parsley into salt water, said UF Hillel Rabbi Gail Swedroe.
3. The Persian Jewish communities have a tradition of whipping each other with scallions, Swedroe said. The tradition takes place during the singing of “Dayenu” and symbolizes the Egyptian slave masters.
4. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated during Passover. According to the American Jewish Historical Society, many Jewish people were in synagogue for the holiday when news of the assassination spread. The society’s website states that “the synagogue altars were quickly draped in black and, instead of Passover melodies, the congregations chanted Yom Kippur hymns. Rabbis set aside their sermons and wept openly at their pulpits, as did their congregants.”
5. Coca-Cola makes a kosher Coke product for Passover. Regular Coke products include high-fructose corn syrup, but since many observant Jews do not use products made with corn during the holiday, the Kosher Coke uses real sugar. Kosher Coke products have a yellow cap. The limited version of Coke is not available in California.
6. For the first time, observant Jews in Israel can have kosher cigarettes. As long as the factory uses ingredients that do not come in contact with yeast products, the cigarettes will have a kosher stamp of approval for Passover.
7. With the difficulty of finding kosher wine in Poland during World War I, the rabbinical authorities made an announcement to allow sweet tea in the Seder ceremony, instead of the traditional four cups of wine.
8. The four cups of wine symbolize the four stages of redemption. Others interpret the cups to be representative of the four matriarchs of Israel.
9. The world’s largest matzo ball was unveiled in 2010 at the Jewish Food Festival in Tucson, Ariz., weighing in at 488 pounds. Ingredients included more than 1,000 eggs, 25 pounds of chicken fat and 125 pounds of matzo meal.