Sephardi and Persian Seder Traditions:
AB: “What kind of Jewish traditions can you tell me about?”
AA: “Ok well we always go to our family friends house for Passover Seder and one tradition Sephardi and Persian Jews have is to run around and hit each other with celery or large green onions during the song dayenu, which is about liberation from slavery and appreciation or gratitude. And some people think the hitting with celery is to symbolize slavery and whipping but it’s become a fun thing and I think it’s more about celebrating liberation from many things.”
AB: “How do you see this tradition? What does it mean to you?”
AA: “It feels more celebratory to me. As a kid, I used to think of it as a game and as I’ve gotten older it’s fun to revisit that inner child. And I think perhaps more importantly it feels like physically letting go and like a physical manifestation of liberation—not necessarily from slavery, but from oppression, harmful thought patterns etc. Passover in general is about escaping a “narrow place” and to me it’s a way to communally perform that liberation and also to acknowledge what oppressive systems exist now and how can we escape them or help others escape them if that makes sense. In short, I love the vegetable violence thing.”
Freedom and liberation appear central to this tradition. The informant notes that the tradition itself mimics the violence of slavery but emphasizes that it’s a celebratory tradition rather than a mournful one. By mimicking slavery in a harmless way, those who practice the tradition can call upon a shared past of oppression and celebrate survival rather than mourning what was lost.