By Guest Blogger Corie Hampton
After a very long, cold, snowy winter, it’s time for my favorite season of the year: spring. But with spring comes the holiday I have the biggest love/hate relationship with: Passover. Passover is the Jewish holiday where we remember and tell the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt after generations of slavery under Pharaoh. And of course with any Jewish holiday, part of the tradition centers around food.
The weeks long of scouring North Carolina for Kosher for Passover food is exhausting. I spend more money for a week of Passover food than I usually spend on an entire month of groceries. It’s frustrating and every year I resent the lead up to Passover. But then the holiday begins and all of that fades away.
One of my favorite traditions around the holiday is what sets my Mizrahi (Jews from the Middle East) family apart from other Ashkenazi (Jews from Eastern Europe) families,. This is the ability to eat rice on Passover.
Growing up in a completely Ashkenazi world, it is so special to me to have a tradition that others want to observe. My family also makes our charoset different. Charoset is a mixture of apples, nuts, and wine that represents the mortar that held the bricks together that the Israelites used while they were enslaved in Egypt. Ashkenazi style charoset is a chunky mixture of chopped apples, walnuts, and wine. But my family makes it with apples, dates, prunes, dried apricots, walnuts, and wine, and process it into a paste.
For me, this creates a closer connection with Israelites of ancient times. The paste reminds me more of what mortar would look like. And, the dried fruits and nuts feel more native to the middle east, representing foods the Israelites would have encountered geographically as they left Egypt and wandered the desert.
Passover always falls around spring break for schools and a time when a lot of people are starting to get out of their houses and traveling, especially after 2 long years of COVID. A lot of my friends go out to eat a lot during spring break or go on vacation. Because I keep the food traditions of Passover, I can’t eat at restaurants, which also limits my ability to vacation with my friends because I wouldn’t be able to eat out or would have to bring an entire pantry with me if we stayed in an Airbnb. I think this sometimes frustrates my friends, or they question why I would put myself through that, but for me this thing that sets me apart makes me proud of my Judaism.
For these 8 days of the year, I uphold traditions that have been observed for thousands of years, and it gives me a deep personal connection to my ancestors. And even though I sometimes have FOMO with my friends, I love that this week I am focused on my family. I eat almost every meal with family, which doesn’t happen at other times of the year. This also means lounging and relaxing at my parents house for most of the 8 days, taking our dogs for long walks in the nice spring weather, going on some day local trips, and really getting to enjoy a peaceful week of spring.
Chag Semeach (Happy Holiday)