THERE ARE two states in the world where mil­lions of peo­ple at­tend a Seder. One is Is­rael; which is the other? No sin­gle state in Amer­ica has this scale of Seder-go­ers and Bri­tain cer­tainly does not come close. The an­swer lies in south-western In­dia.

In case you are imag­ing­ing some mas­sive se­cret Jewish pop­u­la­tion, that is not the story in Ker­ala; the Sedarim there are or­gan­ised by Chris­tians. The state is home to around four mil­lion St Thomas Chris­tians, also known as Mar Thoma Nas­ra­nis and ev­ery spring they hold a fam­ily-based cel­e­bra­tion in­volv­ing un­leav­ened bread, read­ing the Book of Ex­o­dus and pray­ing. Sound fa­mil­iar?

It all starts with clean­ing. The kitchen is thor­oughly scrubbed be­fore any food prepa­ra­tion be­gins and, when the cook­ing starts for the Pe­saha — Passover — meal, the Pe­saha ap­pam takes cen­tre stage. This is un­leav­ened bread made only for Pe­saha, though there is one slight dif­fer­ence to matzah be­yond its softer feel: Pe­saha ap­pam has a cross de­sign on it. Crosses and tim­ing aside — Pe­saha is not cel­e­brated ac­cord­ing to the Jewish cal­en­dar but rather on the eve of Easter Fri­day — it is all very Seder-es­que.

The fam­ily gath­ers, the bib­li­cal pas­sages about the Is­raelites leav­ing Egypt are read and the head of the house­hold rev­er­en­tially breaks the spe­cial bread, tak­ing care not to drop a crumb. Ev­ery­body can rest as­sured the bread has not been con­tam­i­nated by any leav­ened food, as it is steamed in a a ded­i­cated pan. Leav­ened foods are banned from the meal.

Spe­cial pro­duce is served — not maror and karpas but ba­nanas and other fruits. As in Jewish tra­di­tion, Pe­saha sea­son is a time for char­i­ta­ble giv­ing. There is a fo­cus on the drink — paal, a spiced milk drink — as well as the food for the evening.

“Like the Jewish fes­ti­val, this Chris­tian feast is cel­e­brated at Nas­rani homes,” says the Nas­rani Foun­da­tion. “They con­sider this day with great rev­er­ence. This cel­e­bra­tion among them could be con­sid­ered as a Chris­tian ver­sion of the Jewish Passover, per­haps handed over to them through the early Jewish con­verts among them.”

This foun­da­tion be­lieves Jews who con­verted to Chris­tian­ity in In­dia may have in­te­grated Sed­er­like prac­tices into lo­cal Chris­tian­ity and says this makes sense in the con­text of his­tory.

“From lit­er­a­ture it is clear that early Jewish Chris­tians, par­tic­u­larly Ara­maic-speak­ing Chris­tians, prac­tised sev­eral Jewish rit­u­als, in­clud­ing Pe­saha, up to the fourth cen­tury,” says the Nas­rani Foun­da­tion. An­other the­ory is that the prac­tice was im­ported from Europe.

Nat­u­rally, who­ever en­trenched the Pe­sha prac­tice among Nas­ra­nis placed dif­fer­ent sig­nif­i­cance upon it from that of the Jewish Seder, re­lat­ing it to Holy Com­mu­nion, where wine and bread rep­re­sent the blood and body of Christ. “For Nas­ra­nis, the ob­ser­vance of Pe­saha is the feast of Eucharist,” writes Su­n­ish Ge­orge J. Alumkal in the Jour­nal of In­doJu­daic Stud­ies. 1. Ac­cord­ing to the ha­gadah, in which city did five rab­bis spend so long on Seder that their stu­dents came to tell them it was morn­ing? 2. What are the names of the cities the Is­raelites built for the Egyp­tian regime? 3. What were the names of Moses’ par­ents?

4. What was Moses’ sis­ter called?

5. Which of the 10 plagues was sub-zero? 6. Ac­cord­ing to Rabbi Ga­maliel, who is quoted in the ha­gadah, what are the three things that need to be spo­ken about to ful­fil the “duty” of telling the Passover story at Seder?

7. How many of the four cups of Seder wine are drunk be­fore the meal? 8. It is said that when the Is­raelites ar­rived at the Red Sea, peo­ple were ret­i­cent to en­ter and one man from the tribe of Ju­dah jumped in and fear­lessly led the way. What was his name?

9. At sec­ond Seder, the li­turgy in­cludes a count­ing rit­ual that then takes place nightly un­til Shavuot. What is it called?

10. What is the “three” of Echad Mi Yodea? 11. What is the “11” of Echad Mi Yodea?

12. Who ate the kid in the song Chad Gadya? 13. Which is the tra­di­tional lan­guage of the dec­la­ra­tion dis­avow­ing any chametz not found dur­ing clean­ing?

14. May straw­ber­ries be used as the karpas, which is of­ten trans­lated as the “spring veg­etable” of the Seder ser­vice? 15. What is the max­i­mum amount of time that may be taken to pre­pare matzah be­fore it is classed as risen and in­ap­pro­pri­ate for Passover?

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