Some Christians observe a form of the Jewish holiday of Passover. The practice is found among Assemblies of Yahweh, Messianic Jews, and some congregations of the Church of God (Seventh Day). It is often linked to the Christian holiday and festival of Easter. Often, only an abbreviated seder is celebrated to explain the meaning in a time-limited ceremony. The redemption from the bondage of sin through the sacrifice of Christ is celebrated, a parallel of the Jewish Passover's celebration of redemption from bondage in the land of Egypt.
Christian Passover ceremonies are held on the evening corresponding to 14 Nisan (e.g. April 5, 2012) or 15 Nisan, depending whether the particular church uses a quartodeciman or quintodeciman application. In other cases, the holiday is observed according to the Jewish calendar on 15 Nisan, which is also used by Samaritans.
As the Israelites partook of the Passover sacrifice by eating it, most Christians commemorate Jesus' death by taking part in the Lord's Supper, which Jesus is said to have instituted (1Corinthians 11:15-34, Luke 22:19-20). Most Protestants see the elements as symbolic of Jesus' body or as symbols of the presence and or as a memorial to quicken and confirm a faith already held, while Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians hold that the elements are changed into Jesus' body and blood, which they then eat and drink. The Orthodox prefer to use the term, meteousis (change) rather than transubstantiation which is a Western philosophical term applied to a doctrinal concept. Lutherans describe the presence as sacramental union which means that the body and blood are "in, with, and under" the bread and wine. Anglicans believe that the bread and wine are outward and visible symbols and that "The inward and spiritual grace in the Holy Communion is the Body and Blood of Christ given to his people, and received by faith," that is as an objective presence and subjective reception.(BCP 1976. p 859). This definition most closely approximates the words of St. John of Damascus, "the bread and wine are the visible symbols of a spiritual reality."
The spiritual theme of Passover is one of salvation by the atoning blood of a perfect, spotless sacrificed lamb. For many Christians, this is the spiritual pattern seen in Passover which gives it its eternal meaning and significance. The theme is carried on and brought to its ultimate New Covenant fulfillment in the sacrificial death of Christ as the promised sacrifice.
Most Christians don't celebrate the Passover, since it is seen to belong rather to a Jewish or Old Testament tradition which they believe to be no longer necessary. Among those Christians who do observe the Passover, there are some differences in how this is done. Some follow the instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples at the time of his last meal before he was crucified, and share instead of roasted lamb, bread (usually unleavened) and wine. In the Christian Passover service the unleavened bread is used to represent Jesus' body, and wine represents his blood of the New Covenant (Luke 22:19-20). These are a symbolic substitute for Jesus as the true sacrificial Passover "Lamb of God" (John 1:29). It should also be noted that Passover day is followed in the Scriptures by seven days of unleavened bread (Exodus 12:1-15Leviticus 23:6). These days have a great dual significance to the observant Christian. Just as leavening causes bread to be puffed up, so sin causes Christians to be "puffed up" with the sin of "malice and wickedness," and therefore must "purge out" that "old leaven" and replace it with "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (King James Version - 1Corinthians 5:1-15). Therefore, in the Christian Passover service Christ's body is represented[original research?] by unleavened bread symbolizing his sinless life, for he alone had no sin (1Peter 2:21-22). Since these Scriptures indicate that during the seven days of unleavened bread, leavening represents sin and unleavened bread represents righteousness, when Christians remove leavening during these days they are reminded to put sin out of their lives.[original research?]
Other Christians celebrate the Passover as the Jews celebrate it. They roast and eat lamb, bitter herbs, and the unleavened Matza.
Many Adventist, Sabbatarian Churches of God, Messianic Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses (who call it the 'Memorial of Christ's Death') and other groups observe a Christian Passover — though all do not agree on the date(s) or the related practices.
St Thomas Syrian Christians ( Nazranis) in the malabar coast of India (Kerala) have a customary celebration of Pesaha at their homes. On the evening before Good Friday the Pesaha bread is made at home. It is made with unleavened flour and they use a sweet drink made up of coconut milk and jaggery along with this bread ( can be compared to Charoset). On the Pesaha night the bread is baked or steamed in a new vessel, immediately after rice flour is mixed with water and they pierce it many times with handle of the spoon to let out the steam so that the bread will not rise ( this custom is called " juthante kannu kuthal" in the Malayalam language meaning piercing the bread according to the custom of Jews). This bread is cut by the head of the family and shared among the family members after prayers. In some families, a creamy dip made up of jaggery and coconut milk is used along with the Peasha bread. If the family is in mourning following a death, Pesaha bread is not made at their home, but some of the Syrian Christian neighbours share their bread with them. This custom may have its origin in their probable Jewish ancestry since many other Jewish customs like separating the sexes at church, praying with veil in their heads(women), naming conventions in line with the Jewish customs, kiss of peace (kaikasthoori) in their Holy Qurbana (mass), presentation of their babies on the 40th day after birth in the church and ceremonial bath of the dead bodies. Unlike other Christians, in their weddings the bride stands on the right side of the groom resembling the Jewish custom and during the wedding a veil is given to the bride
Some differences between when groups observe passover are:
It was a question of defilement that gave rise to the words: “They themselves did not enter into the governor’s palace, that they might not get defiled but might eat the passover.” (Joh 18:28) These Jews considered it a defilement to enter into a Gentile dwelling. (Ac 10:28) This statement was made, however, “early in the day,” hence after the Passover meal had taken place. It is to be noted that at this time the entire period, including Passover day and the Festival of Unfermented Cakes that followed, was at times referred to as “Passover.” In the light of this fact, Alfred Edersheim offers the following explanation: A voluntary peace offering was made on Passover and another, a compulsory one, on the next day, Nisan 15, the first day of the Festival of Unfermented Cakes. It was this second offering that the Jews were afraid they might not be able to eat if they contracted defilement in the judgment hall of Pilate.—The Temple, 1874, pp. 186, 187
Apollinaris and Melito of Sardis were both 2nd century writers that wrote about the end of Christian celebration of the Jewish Passover.
For indeed the law issued in the gospel–the old in the new, both coming forth together from Zion and Jerusalem; and the commandment issued in grace, and the type in the finished product, and the lamb in the Son, and the sheep in a man, and the man in God...For at one time the sacrifice to the sheep was valuable, but now it is without value because of the life of the Lord. The death of the sheep once was valuable, but now it is without value because of the salvation of the Lord. The blood of the sheep once was valuable, but now it is without value because of the Spirit of the Lord. The silent lamb once was valuable, but now it has no value because of the blameless Son. The temple here below once was valuable, but now it is without value because of the Christ from above… Now that you have heard the explanation of the type and of that which corresponds to it, hear also what goes into making up the mystery. What is the passover? Indeed its name is derived from that event–"to celebrate the passover" (to paschein) is derived from "to suffer" (tou pathein). Therefore, learn who the sufferer is and who he is who suffers along with the sufferer...This one is the passover of our salvation.
There are, then, some who through ignorance raise disputes about these things (though their conduct is pardonable: for ignorance is no subject for blame — it rather needs further instruction), and say that on the fourteenth day the Lord ate the lamb with the disciples, and that on the great day of the feast of unleavened bread He Himself suffered; and they quote Matthew as speaking in accordance with their view. Wherefore their opinion is contrary to the law, and the Gospels seem to be at variance with them. … The fourteenth day, the true Passover of the Lord; the great sacrifice, the Son of God instead of the lamb, who was bound, who bound the strong, and who was judged, though Judge of living and dead, and who was delivered into the hands of sinners to be crucified, who was lifted up on the horns of the unicorn, and who was pierced in His holy side, who poured forth from His side the two purifying elements, water and blood, word and spirit, and who was buried on the day of the passover, the stone being placed upon the tomb
Christians who kept the biblical Passover were considered Quartodeciman because they kept Passover on the 14th day of Nisan. Polycrates of Ephesus, was a late 2nd century leader who was excommunicated (along with all Quartodecimans) by Pope Saint Victor for observing the Christian Passover on the 14th of Nisan and not switching it to a Sunday resurrection celebration. He, Polycrates, claimed that he was simply following the practices according to scripture and the Gospels, as taught by the Apostles John and Philip, as well as by church leaders such as Polycarp and Melito of Sardis.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, neither Jesus Christ nor the early church leaders changed the Passover celebration to Easter, "In fact, the Jewish feast was taken over into the Christian Easter celebration."