The afikoman is the half of the middlemost piece of the three matzahs, which is eaten at the end of the meal. Its origin may be from the Greek epikumios, meaning festive procession. The Talmud defines it as a procession from one group to another because it was the custom after a meal. But this was later forbidden by the rabbis.

It may also be dessert and dinner music. Another explanation is found in the Yemenite Haggadah. Here, it is an abbreviation consisting of Egozim (nuts), Perot (fruit), Jain (wine), Klaiot (fried things), Ubasar (meat), Mayim (water), Nerdim (nardus oil). All these foods are forbidden to eat after eating afikoman.

It has become customary for the host to hide the afikoman under the pillow he is leaning on. Knowing that the Seder could not be completed until the afikoman was eaten, the children would try to get it and ask for something in return. Some rabbis forbade this because it could lead to bad habits. Finding the hidden afikoman may be the oldest treasure hunting game in the world.

Many other superstitions have developed about the afikoman.

  • In the Middle Ages, some people would break off a piece of the afikoman and hang it in the house to ward off evil spirits.

  • The Jews of Kurdistan used to put pieces of the afikoman in the rice, flour and salt containers to keep them from being emptied.

  • Moroccan Jews believed that if they threw the afikoman into the stormy sea during a journey, the water would calm, and they would reach shore safely.

The origin of this is a line from the Psalms, "He delivereth out of all trouble". The initial letters of the three Hebrew words are the same as the word 'matzah' (unleavened bread).

The four children

The Seder evening includes not only four questions (Ma Nistana) and four glasses of wine but also four children:

  • the wise (curious, inquiring, analysing),

  • the evil (or anxious, observing from the outside, not easily engaged),

  • the simple (simple, not always guided by reason, interested in other ways)

  • and the one who can't even ask questions (or doesn't want to, needs more time, listens, introvert).

All four children need to be told the story during the evening in a way that they can imagine, ask questions, inquire, be involved.

Special customs at passover



In the Jewish communities of North Africa and India, the Seder Plate was passed in a circle over the heads of the participants. This was a sign of the world’s turning: first, we were enslaved, then the tables were turned, and we became free men.


In Ethiopian Jewish communities, women baked their matzah. Before Pesach, they broke the old clay pots and made new ones for themselves in a spirit of renewal.


Among Portugal's Anusim (secret Jews), it was customary to buy new pots before Passover. This did not attract much attention, as they used clay pots that broke quickly. The women themselves baked the circular matzah, called "tortas". Before the feast, they ate lettuce, horseradish and radishes. They had no Haggadah, the story of the Exodus being read from a Bible translated into Latin. The leader of the Seder, as in other communities, was dressed in white.


In many places, the story of the exodus is played out at the Seder: a Jew leaves Egypt and wanders in the hope of salvation. In Tunisia, for example, before the Seder began, young men would go to the rabbi with sacks or other belongings on their shoulders. At the breaking of the middle matzah, it was customary to send someone over to the neighbours to predict the coming of the Messiah. In the Caucasus, they would carry the afikoman over their shoulders. In some Eastern European communities, the re-enactment of the narrative was extended to synagogues. During the reading of the parting of the Red Sea, water was poured on the floor, and those present took off their shoes and dipped their toes in the water.


Among Jews of Afghan and Persian (Iranian) origin, it is customary to hit each other (gently) with spring onions or leeks in memory of the blows of the Egyptian slave drivers. It is an Iraqi Jewish custom to pour a little wine from the participants' glasses into a bowl at the mention of the ten plagues. The whole bowl is then thrown away, considered cursed and unlucky.


There were communities in Hungary where the seventh day of Passover was celebrated by re-enacting the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. The Hasidim would gather, have dinner together in someone's home, and take a water pot after midnight and dance with it until the water spilt out on the floor. Sometimes they would put water in a pan and put it on the floor and jump over it, and then they would dance and sing and sing the Torah song, "And Moses sang..."


For many centuries Jews lived in the Sahara. One group celebrated Passover by leaving their homes and wandering in the desert, as the children of Israel did under Moses.


The ancestors of the Bne Israel community in India celebrated the Feast of the Closing of the Anas. The anas is a container used to store pickled liquor used as a sauce. This was done from the 14th of Nisan for eight days. During this period, no leaven was consumed, but the feast’s origins were forgotten.


Some Moroccan families do not eat black olives for the whole month of Nisan, as they believe it causes forgetfulness. Since Jews have to remember the Exodus in the month of Nisan, they avoid black olives. Seder night is also known as the Night of the Head, and in these communities, it is customary to eat a lamb's head in commemoration of the Pesach sacrifice.


The Jews of Gibraltar mix brick dust into the charoset (a mixture of chrajszesz, apples, walnuts and wine), which is used to represent the mortar used in building.



In Sephardic Jewish communities, it is customary to have a harem feast immediately after Passover, called a mimuna.

On the mimuna following Passover in Morocco, the women set a festive table with green wheat cakes, fresh, shining beans, flour, milk, butter, sweets and sweet dried fruits, honey, dates, almonds and other delicacies. After a farewell hailing of the feast, they blessed each other to be successful, happy and fortunate. The couples gave each other dates filled with almonds flavoured with butter and honey, wished each other a good, successful and blessed year, and then gave some sweets to those present. The women who prepared the leaven for the next day's bread asked for the blessing of the prophet Eliyahu on the house, that it may never run out of blessing and that it may be healthy. From the beginning of the month of Nisan onwards, it was customary to collect rainwater to prepare the leaven for the next day's bread on the night of the mimuna. On mimuna, members of Moroccan communities still eat coconut cakes, dried fruit, dates stuffed with walnuts and butter and honey muffles.

In Afghanistan, women placed a giant bowl filled with water at the end of the Pesach feast's table. Gold jewellery was placed in the bowl and a mirror next to it. According to their tradition, it is a perfect sign to see the reflection in the mirror and the water’s colour and touch the jewellery.

In Thessaloniki, Greece, children on their way home from the synagogue would gather a large bunch of weeds and grass for their mothers for the farewell of the holiday. The woman would then put them in the corners of the house, sprinkle them with sugar and say good wishes.

In Libya, the head of the family would buy lettuce and flowers for Passover, and when he returned home, he would lightly hit the people of his house with them, and the lady of the house would bless everyone. On the occasion of the mimuna following the feast, the young girls dressed up in beautiful dresses, and the brides and grooms visited both their parents and ate sweets.

In Taroudant, a town in the Atlas Mountains, the central event of the mimuna was the making of the dough, which was a tribute to the mother of the family, who would knead the dough. The family members accompanied the process with religious songs, such as the Eset chayil (Praise of the Good Wife), the Mishlei (Book of Proverbs), concluding with quotations about redemption and returning to Jerusalem.