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Passover 2024: Blame it on the moon  

by Jay Kitterman, culinary and special events consultant, Lincoln Land Community College

“Blame it on the moon,” is the reply I give to those that ask me why Easter was earlier than normal, and Passover arrives later. Often the two holidays fall within the same week. Why do the dates of Easter and Passover change every year? It’s all about the moon’s phases.

Christians in the West celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon that follows the spring equinox. This year, the spring, or vernal, equinox occurred on Wednesday, March 20, and the first full moon after this date was March 25. Thus, Easter was Sunday March 31. Passover begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan. Since the Hebrew calendar is largely lunar-based, Passover will be celebrated in 2024 starting sundown Monday, April 22. Adding to the confusion is that the current Jewish year is 5784 and is part of a complicated 19-year cycle of leap years that adds an entire month. It’s all very confusing.   

If you have watched the movie “The Ten Commandments,” then you know the story of Passover. Jews all over the world celebrate Passover, a week-long holiday by its Hebrew name Pesach. Passover combines millennia of religious traditions and is about much more than matzoh and gefilte fish. The story of Passover can be found in the book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible, which relates the enslavement of the Israelites and their subsequent escape from ancient Egypt. God speaks to Moses, urging him to tell Pharaoh to let his people go. However, Pharoah refuses. In return, 10 consecutive plagues are brought down on Egypt (think: pestilence, swarms of locusts and water turning to blood), but the Israelites are spared. During the final plague, an avenging angel goes door to door in Egypt, smiting every household’s firstborn son. Israelites were instructed to slaughter a lamb, then brush its blood on their doors so that the avenging angel would “pass over.” 

Keeping kosher for Passover means abstaining from “chametz,” the fermented products of five principal grains: wheat, rye, spelt, barley and oats. Though matzah, the unleavened bread eaten on Passover, is made from grain, it is produced under highly controlled conditions to ensure that it does not ferment.

When most people of think kosher wine, it is either Manischewitz or Mogan David sweet wines. Fortunately, today Kosher wines of all different styles are produced all over the world, and there are over 1,000 available. Kosher has nothing to do with the quality or taste of the wine. It is all about how they are produced. 

Kosher wine is produced in accordance with Jewish law. To be considered kosher, the entire winemaking process, from crushing to bottling, must be handled by Sabbath-observant Jews. The modern wine industry in Israel can be traced back to the late 18th century when French Baron Edmund de Rothschild, owner of the Bordeaux estate Chateau Lafite Rothschild, imported French grapes to Israel.  

Modern Passover celebrations commemorate and even reenact many of the biblical events. The seder (“order”) ritual meal that is the centerpiece of the family Passover celebrations, incorporates foods that represent elements of the story. Bitter herbs (often lettuce and horseradish) stand for the bitterness of slavery. A roasted shank bone commemorates the sacrificial lamb. An egg has multiple interpretations. Some hold that it stands for new life, and others see it as standing for the Jewish people’s mourning over the struggles that awaited them in exile. Vegetables are dipped into saltwater representing the tears of the enslaved Israelites. Haroset, a sweet paste made of apples, wine and walnuts or dried fruits, represents the mortar the enslaved Israelites used to build Egypt’s stone cities.

During a traditional family seder, participants eat unleavened bread, or matzoh, three times and drink wine four times. They read from a Haggadah, a guide to the rite, hear the story of Passover, and answer four questions about the purpose of their meal. Children get involved, too, and search for an afikomen, a piece of broken matzoh, which has been hidden in the home. 

A mainstay of the Passover meal is a kugel-baked casserole made with potato or Passover noodles. Nancy Sage, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Springfield, provided the following Passover recipe for mini kugels. Thank you, Nancy. Also, thanks to Rabbi Arthur Stern for his review of this article.  



  • 1 cup grated apple
  • 1 cup grated sweet potato 
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1 cup matzah meal
  • 1/4 lb. margarine
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  
  2. Grease two 12-cup muffin tins.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together.
  4. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the foil. Turn oven up to 350 degrees, and bake an additional 15 minutes.


This recipe could be made in a 10-inch baking dish following the same instructions, except bake covered with foil for 45 minutes.

The Passover celebration underscores powerful themes of strength, hope and triumph over adversity and anti-Semitism. Happy Pesach from my family to yours! 


Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management and Baking/Pastry, and non-credit cooking and food classes through LLCC Community Education.

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