Celebrating Mimouna and Its Dose of Post-Passover Carbs
For American Jews who can’t go too long without their favorite carbohydrates, the end of Passover offers nearly as much cause for celebration as the holiday itself. Many begin right at sundown, wolfing down pizzas. Then come the brownies or other foods with the flour that they have been avoiding in a nod to ancestors who had no time to let bread dough rise while fleeing Egypt.
Unbeknown to many Americans, however, Moroccan Jews have long marked the end of Passover with a more established ritual, a raucous tradition known as Mimouna. Soon after sunset on the last night of the holiday (observed this year on Friday or Saturday), they indulge in the first leavened food since Passover began: moufleta, a pan-cooked cake smeared with butter and honey.
A variety of other Moroccan sweets follow, on a long, elaborately decorated table that includes the requisite mint tea. For Jews in Israel, where many Moroccans immigrated in the decades after its founding in 1948, Mimouna is now practically a national holiday, as Jews of all backgrounds break the bread that has been temporarily forbidden.
It isn’t easy to find a Mimouna in America. I spent years trying to invite myself to one before finally attending two last year, in Manhattan and Brooklyn. But you can make your own and make it your own, as long as it includes moufleta.
The origins of Mimouna, which seem to go back at least 200 years, are murky, and the word lends itself to many interpretations. There is a similar Hebrew word that means faith, and an Arabic one that connotes good fortune or luck. An etymological connection to the Jewish philosopher Maimonides is also possible, as is one to the name of a Berber goddess.