When the sun sets on the eighth day of Passover, Moroccan Jews celebrate a special holiday called the Mimouna. The basis for this holiday comes from the Bible. Instructions for celebrating Passover are found in Ezekiel 45,
The fourteenth day of the first month shall be your Passover and during the seven day festival, unleavened bread shall be eaten.
Exodus 12 describes the transition from Passover to the New Year,
This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.
Mimouna is the Moroccan Jewish New Year. It is celebrated with symbolic foods and the first leavened bread after Passover.
This celebration is truly an example of hospitality and rejoicing. Moroccan families wear distinctive embroidered robes from Morocco. The celebrants’ homes are transformed into elegant Moroccan banquets. The best tablecloths are brought out, and heirloom trays and candlesticks from Morocco are displayed. People leave the doors of their homes open, and greet every visitor with the phrase, “bracha ve mazal!” “Blessings and luck!” They set a festive table with special symbols.
Symbols Of The Mimouna
Cakes, cookies, marzipan, nougats of nuts and honey, jams, dry fruits, crystallized citrus peels, and honey are placed on the table in hopes of a sweet new year. One of the most traditional confections is zbib, made with raisins and walnuts. This thick, caramel-colored confection will sweeten your palate and your year. Shoshana Golan, a dear friend and an outstanding teacher at the Perelman Jewish Day School, shared her family’s recipe with me.
Shoshana Golan’s Zbib Recipe
- 1 lb. raisins
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 tbsp. sunflower oil
- Walnuts for garnishing
- Place the raisins, sugar, water, and sunflower oil in a pot.
- Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Pour into a serving bowl, and garnish with the walnuts.
Green stalks of fava beans and wheat decorate the table. They are symbols of the new growth of spring.
A plate with pure, white flour, five fava beans, five dates, and five silver coins is placed in the center of the table. The number five is considered to be auspicious as a protection against the evil eye. Hand shaped chamsa amulets (from the Hebrew word “chamesh” or “five”) are on display.
White foods are placed on the table to symbolize purity. Pitchers of milk, plain yogurt, and a special desert called jaban are offered.
Jaban is a traditional Moroccan Jewish confection made with egg whites, rose water, and sugar. It is usually decorated with almonds and walnuts. It is soft, sweet, cold, and refreshing. Shoshana Golan generously shared her recipe with me. The traditional recipe calls for cracking fresh eggs, separating the yolks, and whipping the whites. I encourage you to use organic, pasteurized egg whites to ensure that there are no harmful bacteria in this recipe.
Shoshana Golan’s Jaban Recipe
- 1 cup pasteurized egg whites
- 1 teaspoon rose water
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Place all the ingredients in a mixer and whip until they are very stiff.
- Pour the mixture in a bowl.
- Decorate with almonds and walnuts.
- Cover with clingy plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate for at least two hours.
- Serve cold.
Fish, fava beans, and chickpeas are traditionally associated with fertility. A live fish is placed on the table, reminiscent of the Persian New Year, Norooz. Fried, salted fava beans are the national Moroccan Passover snack. These salty, crunchy beans are like little potato chips.
Fried Fava Beans
Adapted from Moroccan Cooking by Rivka Levy-Melul
- 1 lb. of dried fava beans
- Baking powder
- Olive oil
- Soak the fava beans in cold water overnight.
- Drain the beans.
- Rub the skins off with your fingers.
- Coat the beans with baking powder.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot.
- Fry small batches of the fava beans.
- Blot out the excess oil with paper towels.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve hot.
A special type of yeast crepe called el moufletta is prepared. It is served with butter and honey. This is the first leavened food eaten after Passover by Moroccan Jews.
Adapted from Moroccan Cooking by Rivka Levy-Melul
- 2 pounds of flour
- 4 tablespoons of active, dry, rapid rise yeast
- 3 cups of warm water
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- A pinch of salt
- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.
- Divide the dough into 30 to 40 small balls.
- Heat some oil in a large skillet over a low flame.
- Flatten the individual balls of dough with your hands.
- Fry each pancake over low heat. When one side turns golden, flip it over and fry the other side.
Spread each el moufletta with butter and honey. Roll it up like a cigar. When you bite into it, it will be hot, soft, buttery, and sweet. You will experience a feeling of well-being and contentment!
The name “Mimouna” is said to come from the Hebrew word “emunah” which means “faith.” Another explanation is that this name honors Abraham ben Moses ben Maimon, the father of the Rambam. The Moroccan Jewish influx to Israel, beginning in 1956, brought this festive holiday out of Morocco to be discovered by everyone else. Currently, the Mimouna is a huge national celebration in Israel. Bracha ve mazal! Blessings and luck!”
Published in The Philadelphia Jewish Voice