Passover Celebration at the White House
In the week leading up to Easter, there are many Christian celebrations held. Beginning on Sunday, March 24 and continuing until Easter, the Catholic Holy Week celebrates Jesus’ return to Jerusalem, his crucifixion and resurrection. President Obama himself is celebrating Passover today, March 25, 2013.
Passover is not celebrated by many Christians today largely because it is seen to belong to a Jewish or Old Testament tradition which many believe is no longer necessary. The Jewish celebrate Passover as the commemoration of their liberation by God from slavery in ancient Egypt. Whereas for Christians, Passover represents a spiritual liberation from sin and a memorial of the sacrifice that Jesus made for mankind.
While many Christians don’t celebrate Passover, one very prominent Christian does. We are speaking, of course, of President Obama.
In a statement today, President Obama said,
As we prepare for our fifth Seder in the White House, Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Passover here in America, in the State of Israel, and around the world.
Tonight, Jewish families will gather with family and friends to celebrate with songs, wine, and food. They will read from the Haggadah, and retell the story that makes this holiday so powerful.
Last week, I visited the state of Israel for the third time, my first as President. I reaffirmed our countries’ unbreakable bonds with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres. I had the chance to speak directly with young Israelis about the future they wanted for their country, their region, and the world. And I saw once again how the dream of true freedom found its full expression in those words of hope from Hatikvah, lihyot ‘am chofshi be’artzeinu, “To be a free people in our land.”
Passover is a celebration of the freedom our ancestors dreamed of, fought for, and ultimately won. But even as we give thanks, we are called to look to the future. We are reminded that responsibility does not end when we reach the promised land, it only begins. As my family and I prepare to once again take part in this ancient and powerful tradition, I am hopeful that we can draw upon the best in ourselves to find the promise in the days that lie ahead, meet the challenges that will come, and continuing the hard work of repairing the world. Chag sameach.
The tradition of celebrating Passover for the President began in 2008 as an informal dinner thrown by three of his aides. It has grown into a White House tradition. Obama is the first President to observe Passover in the White House.
Watch the President’s Address from the 2012 Passover Holiday:
In addition to Passover, Christians celebrate Palm Sunday on the Sunday before Easter. Celebrations were held around the world from Jerusalem to San Diego on March 24.
Palm Sunday marks the start of the Catholic Holy Week, which ends with Easter. It is a feast that commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. According to the Gospels, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, and the celebrating people there laid down their cloaks in front of him, and also laid down small branches of trees (source: Wikipedia), hence the “palm.”
In the Pope’s address on Sunday, he was reportedly spontaneous and approachable, often straying from his script and even going into the crowd to greet followers. Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergogliois is the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church, and was elected on March 13, 2013 after Pope Benedict XVI stepped down.