Not all festivals in Korea involve Kimchi!

by Dr. L. Myers, 17/03/2009

Some of them involve dry crackers (matzah’s) and chocolate coconut cake! Feeling at home in Korea, for many of us who are expats, often involves celebrating important & fun traditions right here in our new ‘hood. I can only describe this feeling as devouring a home cooked meal from my mother, in her kitchen. Mind you, she is not 3-star Michelin chef (sorry imma). Over the past year, a true renaissance has been taking place right here in Seoul amongst our small and vibrant Jewish community. Perhaps you have started to smell the gefilte fish and if not, you will shortly. Festive meals, singing, dancing and just all-around fun. This increased activity is especially a delirious experience around the holidays.
For one week between April 8 and April 15, the Jewish community of Korea, along with thousands of Jewish communities around the globe, will celebrate the Passover holiday.  This is a joyous but contemplative celebration of liberation during which Jews remember the story of their escape from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the land of Israel.  The story is told at a dinner called a seder (which means order), in the same sequence each year, with special, seasonal, symbolic food, song, and traditional games. Only the first two nights require seders. 
The Jews originally fled to Egypt to escape famine in their own land. During the early years, their Egyptian hosts treated them well.  However, over the years, as their numbers increased, the Egyptian Pharaoh began to fear and resent these guests, and eventually enslaved them. After 210 years of slavery, a man called Moses was instructed by God to ask the Egyptian Pharaoh to “let my people go.”  When Pharaoh ignored the request, God punished the Egyptians by unleashing a series of plagues upon them.  It was the 10th plague, the slaying of all first born Egyptian boys, to which the Pharaoh finally responded.  The name of this holiday, Passover, refers to the angel of death who was instructed to 'pass over' Jewish homes in Egypt and spare firstborn Jewish boys.
While the 10th plague finally convinced Pharaoh to let the Jews escape to freedom, he was known to be a fickle leader. For this reason, the Jews departed quickly, and did not have enough time to properly complete their bread baking.  The dough that they carried on their backs soon heated in the sun into flat, hard crackers called matzah.  Because of this, during the Passover holiday, Jews eat matzah and morror (usually a bitter herb) to symbolize the bitterness of slavery.
Chag Sameach - Happy Passover

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