Traditional Mimouna Celebrations Begin

While Jews abroad celebrate an eighth day of Passover tonight (Saturday) and Sunday, many Jews in Israel, especially those of Moroccan descent, are celebrating the Mimouna.

, | updated: 12:22 PM

The Mimouna celebrations began with a festive meal, with large families gathering together to enjoy singing, traditional foods, and spiritual nourishment for the coming months. The festivities commemorate the hope and belief [Emunah, possibly related to Mimouna, according to some] that just as the Jewish People were redeemed on Passover, so too they will merit the Final Redemption "speedily in our days."

Another explanation given for this day is that because of the stringencies against eating leavened bread [chametz] on Passover, many people would not eat at each other's homes throughout the holiday. The Mimouna is a chance to renew ties between families and neighbors, showing that the Jews are united in brotherly love.

This year's main celebrations are in Dimona and Tiberias. The festivities help mark Dimona's 50th anniversary, as well as the 800th anniversary of the death of the Rambam (Maimonides), who is buried in Tiberias. It is the opinion of some scholars that the source of the name Mimouna is Maimon, the Rambam's father.

The Mimouna was originally celebrated by Jews in North Africa, and was celebrated publicly in Israel for the first time in 1966. In 1968, it was celebrated by some 5,000 people in Sanhedria Park, which returned as part of Israel during the Six Day War in June 1967.

The Mimouna's popularity as a public event has grown each year and is now celebrated nationally by hundreds of thousands of people. One of the main centers is in Sacher Park in Jerusalem.