Rites and traditions of the Pesah at the Sephardic Days of San Millán de la Cogolla

The celebration of Passover among the Sephardim: eating, drinking, singing... and mourning the Haggadah of Pesah
The Sephardic Days


The San Millán de la Cogolla Foundation could not deal with the Spanish language and, therefore, with its historical development, without taking Sephardic culture into account. And this has been the case ever since it was set up. Thus, in the cradle of Spanish, in the Monastery of Yuso, headquarters of the International Centre for Research into the Spanish Language (Cilengua), a new edition of the Sephardic Conferences is being held. A new attempt - and this is the eleventh edition - to inform the scientific community in particular, and all those interested in general, about the history and literary creation of the Sephardic world. On this occasion, the focus is on the festival of Pesah (Passover) and the rites, traditions, customs and music that have characterised its celebration among the Sephardim. 

Although the way of celebrating the holiday is essentially the same in all Jewish communities, over the centuries the Sephardim have created their own traditions. Customs and traditions forged in Sepharad, which the Jews expelled in 1492 took with them into exile. As in other areas of Jewish life, the particularities of the Sephardic tradition have taken shape in the most diverse fields: legal, liturgical, literary or folkloric, for example.  

Jornadas Sefardíes San Millán de la Cogolla

The rules, customs, rituals, songs and other elements of the celebration of Passover, also known as the 'Feast of Unleavened Bread' and the 'Feast of Spring', have evolved from biblical times to the present day. The specific dietary rules of the Pesah and its recipe book, the obligation to eat unleavened bread during the days of the festival, the Passover meal, the feast, the Passover meal, hospitality, the reading of the Haggadah (story), the prominence of children and songs, are some of the essential elements of this festival, which is characterised by the special prominence of home celebrations. 

Spread throughout the Mediterranean, North Africa, Northern Europe and Latin America, the Sephardim have produced an extensive and rich literature of authorship and oral transmission, both profane and religious, as well as an extensive musical repertoire that shows how deeply rooted and popularised the celebration of Pesah is. Among the most characteristic of these are the méldado (recitation) of the texts and songs of the Haggadah in Ladino during the Pesah dinner; the dishes, savoury and sweet, typical of the gastronomy of the Jews from Spain; the role of women in the organisation of the home celebration; and the Timimona (or Mimona) celebrations, which mark the end of Passover, a Sephardic custom born in Morocco, and which over the years has become one of the most popular celebrations in Israel. 

Jornadas Sefardíes San Millán de la Cogolla

In addition to the lectures and sessions dedicated to the reading of texts, the programme includes other activities, such as the exhibition of books and objects 'The table and the story', inaugurated by the Israeli ambassador, Rodica Radian, at the Foundation's own library. On display is a recreation of a table set for the celebration of the Pesah dinner. In addition, an intense film series dedicated to the holiday recalls memorable scenes from European and American films on this particular theme.