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A table set with traditional foods and symbols of the holiday
|Observed by||Maghrebi Jews|
|Significance||Celebration of the end of prohibition of chametz|
|Begins||21st day of Nisan in Israel; 22nd day of Nisan outside of Israel|
|Ends||22nd day of Nisan in Israel; 23rd day of Nisan outside of Israel|
|Date||21 Nisan, 22 Nisan, 23 Nisan|
Mimouna (Hebrew: מימונה, Arabic: ميمونة, Amazigh: ⵎⵉⵎⵓⵏⴰ) is a North African Jewish celebration related to the ancient Seharane. It is held the day after Passover, marking the return to eating chametz (leavened bread, etc.), which is forbidden throughout the week of Passover.
Though the practice only began to be recorded in the middle of the 18th century, its derivation and etymology are ancient. Possible derivations for the name Mimouna are: "Rabbi Maimon ben Yosef" (father of the Rambam Maimonides). Thus, the Mimouna might mark the date of his birth or death; the Hebrew word "emuna" (Hebrew: אמונה, meaning "faith") or "ma’amin" (Hebrew: מאמין, meaning "I believe"); the Arabic word for "wealth" or "good luck" as on this day, according to midrash, the gold and jewelry of the drowned Egyptians washed up on the shore of the Reed Sea and enriched the Israelites. Mimouna is associated with "faith" and "belief" in immediate prosperity, as seen in its customs of matchmaking, and well-wishes for successful childbearing; manna, which was the food God provided following the Exodus, and during the subsequent wandering in the desert.
Mimouna celebrates belief in both the past Jewish redemption from the Egyptians and the future Messianic redemption: "In Nisan (the month in which Passover falls), the Jews were redeemed and in Nisan they will be redeemed in the future. When Passover ends and the Jews are still not redeemed, the Moroccan Jews do not lose their faith; as the Sages said: 'Even if he tarries, I will expect him every day.'"
It was at the crossing of the Reed Sea on the final day of Passover that the entire nation witnessed the awesome power and might of God which was an experience that strengthened their faith. "And Israel saw the great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians, and the people feared the LORD; and they believed in the LORD, and in His servant Moses." – Exodus 14:31
In Morocco, on the afternoon of the last day of Passover, Muslim neighbors bring to the homes of their Jewish neighbors, gifts of flour, honey, milk, butter and green beans to be used to prepare post-Passover chametz dishes. Historically, Jewish congregations would walk to an orchard in order to recite Birkat Ha'Ilanot, and following the conclusion of Passover, would recite passages from the Book of Proverbs and the Mishna.
The celebration begins after nightfall on the last day of Passover. In many communities, non-Jewish neighbors sell chametz back to Jewish families as a beginning of the celebration. Moroccan and Algerian Jews throw open their homes to visitors, after setting out a lavish spread of traditional holiday cakes and sweetmeats. One of the holiday favorites is Mofletta. The table is also laid with various symbols of luck and fertility, with an emphasis on the number "5," such as five pieces of gold jewelry or five beans arranged on a leaf of pastry. The repetition of the number five references the five-fingered hamsa amulet common in both Jewish and Muslim North African and Middle Eastern communities from pre-modern times. Typically all those in attendance at a Mimouna celebration are sprinkled with a mint sprig or other green dipped in milk, symbolizing good fortune and new beginnings.
Early in the day of the Mimouna, families go to the sea, splash water on their face, and walk barefoot in the water, to replay the scene of the miraculous crossing of the Reed Sea, which is held to have taken place on the last day of Passover.
In Israel, the Mimouna has become a popular annual happening featuring outdoor parties, picnics, BBQs, and politics: A central celebration in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park draws about 100,000 people, usually including the president and prime minister. Israeli law now requires employers to agree to grant an employee unpaid leave for Mimouna if asked. One source estimated that in 2012 nearly two million people in Israel participated in Mimouna festivities.