In honor of the upcoming holiday of Mimouna, celebrated by Moroccan Jews at the end of Passover, we sat down with Gal Andres (she/her/hers), 33, who shared her favorite Mimouna celebrations and traditions. Gal's family, originally from Morocco, made their way to Haifa, Israel, where Gal was born, and later moved to the United States. Gal grew up in Philadelphia, PA, and she now lives in Claremont, CA.
The origins of the holiday are not completely known, though many say that though it is considered a cheerful holiday, Mimouna marks the yahrzeit (anniversary of death) of Maimonides's father, Maimon ben Joseph, who lived in Fez for some time.
What does Mimouna look like for you and your family?
Mimouna is a glorified celebration of carbohydrates at the end of Passover. During Passover we restrict leavened dough and Mimouna celebrates all the delicious, leavened doughs that we return to our dietary repertoire. Traditionally, in my family, we make sfinge for Mimouna, which is a Moroccan donut that we also eat on Hanukkah. We also eat various traditional cookies - some stuffed with dates, almonds, pistachios, and chocolate, and others with rose water and coconut. My family loves to bake and cook, and we are big on fancy presentation, so Mimouna ends up showcasing a plentiful spread of the most beautiful desserts.
What is your favorite part of Mimouna?
My favorite part of Mimouna, other than the delicious treats, is the family time. Any reason to gather family and enjoy good times is the best.
What does being a Moroccan Jew mean to you?
Being a Moroccan Jew to me means that I have rich traditions in my Judaism. It's all I knew growing up, so as a kid I didn't think about it much, but now, living in America, I have learned about many other Jewish and non-Jewish traditions. Seeing how my traditions compare has always been fun and enriching. To me, my Moroccan traditions are the foundation of my warm and open household.
Do you have any Passover "takeaways" that you'd like to share?
Passover is a special holiday where we celebrate our people's Passover story recognizing freedom and slavery. In my household we like to reflect on all the things which "enslave" us today - from those in our communities who are still literally enslaved, to perhaps more metaphorical forms of "enslavement" like screens, phones, or stressful work and unhealthy priorities. We ask, "How can we work to break those chains of bondage?" Maybe spending 10 minutes less on our phones every day and using that quality time with our families could be a worthwhile practice. For others, maybe going back to school or reading more could be considered freeing.
I would also like to encourage others to engage in traditions, whatever they might be. Even if you don't have specific cultural traditions, you can create new traditions and rituals in your home. For example, you can choose a dish that you will always make for Passover. Or you can pick a song you love and highlight it yearly, maybe getting the kids involved. There is something so inviting and special about tradition, and I would encourage all people to embrace a new tradition as their own.