According to the stories, the Jewish people left Egypt in such a hurry that they didn’t have time to wait for the bread they had been baking to rise. To mark this, during Passover they now eat only unleavened bread. The night before Passover they cleanse the house of all leavened bread, including crumbs.
A special meal called a Seder is eaten, and they lean on cushions as a symbol that they are no longer slaves. The meal also represents the escape from slavery. The first item on the plate is the lamb bone. This is not eaten, but symbolises the lambs that were sacrificed for the original Passover. The roasted egg is also a symbol of sacrifice, as well as of springtime (when Passover takes place) and new beginnings. The green vegetables are for the humble origins of Jews and these vegetables are dipped in saltwater for the tears they have shed. Bitter herbs (usually horseradish) are for the bitterness of slavery, and a dish called Charoset (a mixture of apple, walnut and wine) symbolises the mortar used for building in Egypt during the time of slavery.
The youngest child asks four questions, beginning “Why is this night different from all other nights?” to prompt the retelling of the story of the story of the escape from Egyptian slavery.
During the evening, four toasts are made – one for each of the four expressions God used to describe the escape from slavery, and a glass of wine is also poured for the prophet Elijah. The doors are left unlocked and sometimes open so that Elijah can enter in case this is the day he chooses to return.
Related post: Why do Jews celebrate Passover
Passover, or Pesach, is one of the most important festivals in the Jewish calendar. It celebrates the Jews leaving Egypt and slavery behind them, and being led to freedom by Moses.
The Pharaoh at the time refused to set the Jewish people free, and so according to the stories God sent ten great plagues.
The first was that the water of the Nile turned to blood, killing everything that lived in it and making the water undrinkable. The second and third were frogs and bugs, which invaded every corner of the land, and the fourth was a horde of wild animals which trampled over the land, destroying everything in their path. The fifth was a pestilence which killed the Egyptians’ domestic animals, and the sixth was a painful plague of boils. When the pharaoh still refused to set the Jews free, there followed plagues of hail and locusts. The ninth plague was a darkness which fell on the land for several days, filling the Egyptians with fear.
Moses told the Pharaoh that if he did not free the Jewish people, God would send the worst plague of all. The Pharaoh still refused to set them free.
The Jews were then instructed to take a lamb for each household. On the 14th day of the month, they were to kill and eat it, and to mark their doors with the blood from the lamb. That night the first born of all the Egyptians died, but the Jews were kept safe because the lambs’ blood on their doors marked them as households where death should pass over them.
At last the Pharaoh agreed to let them go. They packed hurriedly and followed Moses out of Egypt. Jews celebrate this event every year as the Passover.
Related post: How do Jews celebrate passover?
Christmas is another tricky time of year – most children know the nativity story by the time they start school but I found some fantastic books, suitable for KS1, which tell the story with a twist. The Grumpy Shepherd tells the story of Christmas from the point of view of Joram, a shepherd who is always moaning about something – sheep are boring and his job is too hard – until an angel appears with news of a very special baby. Jesus’ Christmas Party tells the story from the point of view of an inn-keeper who gets very cross when his sleep is disturbed first by a man and his pregnant wife wanting someone to stay, and then by a bright star shining through his window. He gets crosser and crosser as he is woken by shepherds and kings looking for a baby, but then he meets the baby for himself. Finally A Christmas Story tells the story of a young girl and a baby donkey who follow Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, meeting angels and shepherds and kings along the way.
For older children, I have found this Advent wreath game a great resource. I have used it in the last week of the Autumn term, when the children don’t want to do any work because it’s nearly Christmas, and by the end of the game the children are able to explain clearly what an advent wreath is for, how it is used and what each part represents. Although it’s quite a simple game, Years 5 and 6 really got into it, and enjoyed it so much they asked if I would leave it in their classroom so that they could play it again later.
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Related post: REsources – Part 1 (General Resources)
Last year I taught a lot of RE. It’s not my specialist subject (I’m an MFLer), it just worked out that way. When I was looking at the schemes of work for various year groups, I noticed that some stories seem to come up year after year. So how do you hold a child’s interest when you know that they’ve done this every year for the last three years? Equally to the point – when you’re teaching the same lesson in several different schools, how do you stop yourself getting bored so that you can present this to the children as something fresh and exciting? Ideally, you do something else, but as we all know – sometimes it’s a case of “It’s in the Scheme of Work therefore it MUST be done!” And if you’re self-employed it’s best not to argue with that.
One story in particular from last year was the Good Samaritan. I can remember hearing this story as a child – in school, in Sunday school, in church…. The teachers would choose some children to come and act the story out and the first time it was fun. The second time was OK. The third time it was boring and by the fourth time I just didn’t bother listening any more. With this in mind I knew I had to find something a bit different to cover the story. That’s where youTube came to my rescue. I know that in some schools YouTube is banned, but fortunately I’ve been working in schools that are forward-thinking enough to allow it. I found this lovely Lego story which the children really enjoyed – especially when all the lego men starting singing Kung Fu Fighting!
Another YouTube RE resource that I have to share is David and Goliath. I haven’t had the opportunity to use it, but I wish I had because it really made me laugh when I came across it. It’s the story of David and Goliath sung to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody.
Related post: REsources – Part 2 (Christmas resources).
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