Samaritan Passover

Mount Gerizim

During the feast of unleavened bread, from the 14th to the 21st of the first month (Nisan), the Samaritans, when it is possible for them to do so, close their houses in the city and live in tents pitched in the form of a half-circle on a sheltered plateau at some distance below the summit of Mount Gerizim (Jebel et Tûr). Sometimes they go there a few days earlier, but more frequently they only remain on the mountain for two days, to celebrate the sacrifice of the Passover, and to partake of it during the intervening night. (Source: Picturesque Palestine, vol. 2, p. 18.)

Ruins on the Summit of Mount Gerizim, on the Site of the Samarian Temple

The scene of the sacrifice is on a terrace a little way above the place of encampment. Here towards the close of the day all is in readiness for the service. Two cauldrons filled with water are standing over a long trench, in which a fire made of thorns and brushwood is crackling and blazing. A few paces higher up a deep circular pit is thoroughly heated to serve as an oven. Near to the trench, within a space marked off by stones, stand twelve men in white garments and turbans, reciting prayers, their faces turned towards their "Holy Place," or Kibleh. In front of them stands the ministering priest looking towards the west, as if watching for the going down of the sun. (Source: Picturesque Palestine, vol. 2, p. 18.)

Samaritans Praying on Mount Gerizim

Presently six or seven youths, dressed in white, advance, each holding a white lamb, "according to the number of souls" about to celebrate the Passover. (Until recently seven lambs were required.) They take their places near the oven, and behind them a little group of women and children stand. At the moment of sunset the chief priest rises, and with a loud voice pronounces a blessing three times, and repeats the words, "And the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening" (Exodus xii. 6). The slaughterers stand with their knives ready, and as these words are uttered the lambs are slain, all at the same instant. (Source: Picturesque Palestine, vol. 2, p. 18.)

Family Eating the Passover Sacrifice

The lambs are rubbed with salt and spitted, and then forced into the glowing oven . . . . In the meantime, unleavened cakes seasoned with bitter herbs are distributed by the chief priest. Soon afterwards nearly every one present retires to rest, except the twelve white-robed men, who return to their original station within the enclosed space, and continue reciting and chanting by the light of the full moon until midnight, when the sleepers are aroused, and in the presence of all the men of the community the lambs are withdrawn from the oven and carried in new straw baskets to the enclosed space, where they are eaten "in haste," each man having "his loins girt and a staff in his hand." There are slight variations from year to year in the manner of celebrating this festival, but none of great importance. (Source: Picturesque Palestine, vol. 2, 19.)