Monday, April 24, 2006

So How Was Mimouna?

Resistance to oppression and freedom from slavery are of course major themes of the Passover holiday, and Jews around the world recently celebrated the time of the Exodus in many unique ways. In Israel, a Sephardic Pesach custom -- namely the celebration of Mimouna originating in Morocco -- has been adopted by much of the country and is now celebrated by both Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews alike. The Mimouna festival is a fascinating example of the myriad of ways that Jews actually go about remembering what we are told to remember.

It is a wonderful celebration of friendship, love, togetherness, freedom, and hospitality that also marks the first time that Moroccan Jews would eat leavened bread after the conclusion of Passover. The festival takes place in people's homes, and traditionally Moroccan Jews would visit the homes of their Rabbi, Chazzan, family, friends, and neighbors and eat special foods for Mimouna that have numerous symbolic meanings.

As with many Moroccan Jewish celebrations, dairy products have a huge presence on the table, which is usually decorated with a white tablecloth and flowers, along with nuts and fruits (especially dates), cakes, candies, and all things sweet to remind us of the sweetness of freedom (contrasted with the bitterness of slavery). Fish, bean pods (representing fertility), and eggs are also present at the table along with wine and sweet Moroccan mint tea. Coins hidden in certain dishes represent the hope for prosperity, and blessings for tarbeh, or success, are uttered throughout the festivities. Mufleita are also eaten, usually as the first leavened food after Passover; it is a thin, round, crepe-like dish that is eaten with butter and honey. To go with everything, a traditional alcoholic beverage called Mahya (better known as Arak), a sweet, anise flavored beverage -- similar to the Greek drink Ouzo -- is also served.

My mother, who grew up in Morocco, has vivid memories of celebrating Mimouna in Marrakech. It was known as a time of good fortune as well as a time to meet new and old friends. This year she had the great fortune to be in Israel, and was surprised to see the large number of people who now take part in the Mimouna celebration. People's doors are opened for friends and family to enter and eat, families go to the beach and barbecue, and some have parties in their backyards.

I mentioned to her that here in Santa Cruz I would be attending Moshiach's Feast at the Chabad Student Center, as there was no Mimouna festival that I knew of, but explained that it happens at the same time as Mimouna. However, she didn't quite understand that they are two different things. Afterwards, she asked "so how was Mimouna" and if the Mufleita were good; I had to explain to her that Mufleita isn't something that one would eat at Chabad and that Mimouna is also something that they don't celebrate, but that it was great nonetheless. Still wondering how someone could have a meal after Passover without Mufleita and honey, she was happy that I at least had a meal. Any Jewish mother would be happy about that.


Blogger G-D SQUAD said...

Great post. It's awesome to hear about the diversity in Jewish observance. Maybe next year, you can organize a Mimouna celebration in SC. That would be pretty sweet.

Werd to your mother.

Tue Apr 25, 04:38:00 PM 2006  
Blogger JewSlug said...

You know, I think I will organize one next year.

There comes a time when someone has to stop complaining that certain things don't happen and simply make them happen themselves.

Wed Apr 26, 01:03:00 PM 2006  
Blogger G-D SQUAD said...

Werd. Let's bring Moshiach.

Wed Apr 26, 01:08:00 PM 2006  

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