Last night, right after Pesach ended, I attended my first Mimouna celebration. Mimouna is a holiday celebrated by North African Jews, held the night and day immediately following Pesach. It’s a celebration of spring, of eating foods that were prohibited over Pesach, of friends and community. I had never heard of it when I lived in America, but, like many ethnic traditions, it’s been adopted by the masses here in Israel.
During Mimouna, Jews of North African descent open their doors to friends and neighbors, laying out decadent tables of sweets and pastries, including traditional pancakes called “mufleta”; picnics and barbeques are popular as well, especially during the day.
Since I have a Moroccan-by-marriage friend, I scored an invite to my first Mimouna, and I can say with certainty that it was a very different way to celebrate the end of Pesach.
Usually, my “celebration” includes frantically re-boxing the Pesach dishes and unboxing the chametz (or, as we call them, ROY—rest of year—dishes), shaking off vacation mode and gearing up for the week ahead. This year was particularly frantic because in Israel, everyone went back to school and work on Sunday, without a day in between to chill out or stock up on bread and pasta. Combining post-Pesach with back-to-school meant digging up lunchboxes and water bottles and preparing everyone a delicious lunch of matzah with chocolate spread.
Observing my ransacked apartment filled with post-Pesach cleanup and changeover, combined with the usual post-Shabbat/holiday cleanup of crumbs, spills and dishes, I started to despair, unsure if I would be able to attend Mimouna. But I was determined (and lucky; the kids were asleep and the husband more than willing to tackle the re-boxing on his own.)
So off I went to my friend’s house. Her table was filled with nuts, dates, cookies and little mint candies, which are probably not traditional but delicious anyway. She prepared a little date “sandwich” for me, filled with nuts and raisins, which she said was a family custom. There were plenty of drinks—hot, cold, and alcoholic. A few friends showed up and we sat around the table, noshing and chatting.
I didn’t stay long—remember the crumbs?—but I left feeling energized. I appreciated the ability to sit and relax, especially after such a hectic few weeks. I don’t think anyone would argue that Pesach wins, hands-down, the Most Challenging Holiday award. The sheer amount of preparing, organizing, shopping, cleaning and cooking—which starts weeks before the holiday and continues straight through—is overwhelming. It is also, perhaps paradoxically, my favorite holiday, but still, “relaxing” is not a word one associates with Pesach.
How pleasant, then, to end the holiday not with the aforementioned franticness, but with pleasant conversation, friends and good food. Even though sweeping and floor washing awaited me when I got home, I was able to end my week on a high note. I am already excited about attending Mimouna celebrations next year. And maybe I’ll even provide the mufleta.