Why is Passover called Passover ? Because the day before the festival in a kosher grocery store people must pass over the other customers to access the shelves.
Passover is the festival of the Jewish identity and it is the most celebrated festival by our people.
It is very different from Purim that took place a month ago. For Purim people get drunk and they disguised in what they will never be : superhero, firemen… (You will rarely see a Jew disguised as a lawyer, a banker or a doctor !) both attitudes are far from Jewish classical values.
Passover is the opposite, Jews assume their Jewishness. Which means that they are totally neurotic. Some are hametz freaks, spending hours cleaning unreachable places ; some will add extra prohibition on food (soya, corn, quinoa… even coke just to feel that Passover is different from the rest of the year). And don’t assume that this craziness only applies to orthodox or haredim, even reform will add new customs for the seder, as if there were not enough symbols they put an orange on the seder plate as a symbol of inclusion of gays and lesbians and others who are marginalized within the Jewish community.
The most striking custom is the last minute rush.
As we can read in the book of Exodus :
And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading-troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders. And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they asked of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment. (…) And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual.
So basically they were told from the 1st of Nissan they will leave Egypt somehow two weeks later. I still wonder why but when the bell rings, they leave totally unprepared only with dough and without any victuals but they still find the time to grab jewels from their former jailors !
Nowadays Jews perpetuate this tradition of unpreparedness, and wait the last few days to clean, shop and cook. Still women will exhibit in shul their latest fashion dress and jewels that took them plenty of time to find.
One anecdote from my last minute shopping today at the kosher store. The store was crowded, no miracle similar to the opening of the dead sea that would have helped me to reach the cashier in a couple of seconds occurred, but beside the Jewish population there were some local Christians. One couple in front of me in the line started to engage the conversation. They came to buy some extra pure olive oil from Israel and some choco-matzot and they asked me if they sell here anointing oil ! I told them that Jews didn’t anoint anyone for centuries, and I kept for myself that even if we did it is not sure that the oil would have been available for sale in the Singapore kosher store.
I’m not sure where those visitors came from. Maybe there is a printed guide for Christians with folkloric visits :
Kosher Store they day before pessah : Don’t miss this show, when you will see how much Jews are ready to spend for a piece of horseradish or for azymes you will understand why our Lord abolished all those prescriptions and launched a new religion. Live this experience fully and take part of this adventure by buying a box of matzos. Don’t panic, contrary to what you have been told many times they are not baked with Christian blood.
Pessah kosher vesameah !
PS: Regarding the no shoes policy in Singapore, it is also said in the book of Exodus that our ancestors ate the passover sacrfice “their shoes on their feet”, I’ll have a good excuse tomorrow evening to keep mines.