Mimouna is a beautiful Moroccan Jewish festival, a celebration of friendship, brotherhood, unity and the beginning of spring, after the Passover period. It represent to, the formal return to chametz (leavened bread) after such foods were forbidden over the Passover holiday. The theme is good fortune, fertility, wealth and prosperity. To this effect, gold and jewellery often decorate the table, and sometimes they even decorate the food as well.
The traditional table is set with symbols of luck and fertility: a live fish swimming in a bowl of water signify life and vitality, stalks of wheat for a full harvest, five green fava beans wrapped in dough, five dates and honey for sweetness, five gold bracelets in a pastry bowl, dough pitted with five deep fingerprints, five silver coins, five pieces of gold or silver jewellery, a hamsa – hand shaped amulet, to ward off evil, sweetmeats, milk and butter, white flour, yeast. plants, fig leaves, windflowers and greens.
A variety of coloured marzipan sweets, candied citrus rind, date rolls, assorted home-made jams and jellies made from fruits and vegetables such as kumquats, carrots, even eggplant, almond crisp cookies, and marzipan cookies, are prepared before Passover and kept for the whole week. All are symbols of bounty, fertility, luck, blessings and joy. The traditional holiday greeting fits right in: “Tarbakhu u-tsa’adu” – meaning, “May you have success and good luck.”
Traditionally, Jewish families in Morocco gave or sold their leavened foods to their Muslim neighbours for the duration of the holiday. When Passover ended, they invited their neighbours into their homes for a feast of Moroccan pastries and sweets. Among the customary foods are trays of fruit, honey and butter wafers, Zaben (white almond nougat), Marozia (fried raisins decorated with nuts), dates stuffed with marzipan, Mazum (jam made from oranges, grapefruit, carrots, turnips, and beets), m’hamsa (also known as Israeli), couscous served in butter and milk called “berkouksh” , Moroccan salads like za’alook, Mufleta – crepes – like pancakes dipped in honey and butter and mint tea.
Mimouna’s signature dish, mufleta
Martzipan Sweets on display at Mimouna Festival. Celebrated in Morocco since the 16th century, Moroccan Jews who immigrated to Israel in the state’s early days brought the celebration with them, and it has grown. After a reunion of 300 Jews from Fez, in 1966, the celebration has spread into more mainstream Israeli culture. Not very well known in other countries, Mimouna is today a national holiday in Israel with big family or public outdoor parties, that begin at sundown and often last into the next day. Frequently, politicians attend the celebrations, and it is a badge of honour to have a member of the Knesset, or local elected official, at someone celebration.
The celebration start immediately after the end of Passover and continues for 24 hours. For many Jews of Moroccan origin, is a bigger festival than Passover itself!
In 2014, Mimouna in Israel will be celebrated from the evening of April 21 to sundown on April 22.