Passover is a time to appreciate the importance of freedom as well as celebrate the holiday with family.
It is also a time to honor traditions, embracing old ones and perhaps establishing new ones.
The eight-day holiday begins at sundown Monday with most Jewish families holding seders in their homes. Locally, Temple Beth Israel and Agudath Achim Synagogue will hold communal seders on Tuesday to include seniors, college students and others who may not be able to hold one in their home.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich) Grant (left) and Connor Okonak, both 4, open the door for Elijah, a tradition that is part of the Passover seder.
On the first night, many families gather sons and daughters and grandchildren together for the holiday.
Charlotte Morris of Altoona will have three generations at her table. Two of her children and some of her grandchildren will celebrate with her, and they will read the Haggadah or story of how their ancestors became free from their bondage in Egypt during the seder.
The seder consists of 15 parts including singing, the reciting of blessings and sampling foods associated with the Hebrews time of slavery, such as parsley dipped in salt water to symbolize their ancestors' tears.
One of the traditions observed toward the end of the seder is opening the door so Elijah can enter the home.
It is a tradition that Jews have observed for hundreds of years, but was not always part of the celebration.
Rabbi Joshua Wohl of Agudath Achim Synagogue said during the Middle Ages, the Jews were persecuted and people opened the door to symbolically express their faith in God to protect them.
Wohl said Elijah was "quite a zealot" who defeated 450 prophets of Baal as told in I Kings, Chapter 18.
His name combines two names for God - justice and mercy - and he went to heaven without dying, Wohl said.
While there are different explanations for why Elijah's cup is part of the seder, Wohl said opening the door for him is symbolic of urging Elijah to bring the Messianic era.
"The Messianic era is about hope, a hope that life will be better," he said.
"It's more of a metaphor."
At Temple Beth Israel, another cup has been added to the observance.
Rabbi Audrey Korotkin introduced Miriam's cup to the congregation several years ago.
"Miriam's cup represents the responsibility we have to the world we live in," she said.
According to tradition, Miriam would find water in the wilderness to make sure the Hebrew nation was nourished.
Korotkin said it is a way to remember the women who played a crucial role in the Jews' freedom, including Moses' mother who hid him in the bulrushes, Miriam and the midwives who spared the male babies. It also is a way to highlight the accomplishments of Jewish women, present and past.
Miriam's empty cup is passed around the table at the beginning of the seder with each person adding water until it is full.
Korotkin said her cup is a symbol of home, adding that for many years, there was no Jewish homeland.
"We all lived in exile," she said.
One of the important aspects of Passover is involving the children.
They take part in activities throughout the seder, including answering four questions, hiding a piece of matzo called the afikoman and opening the door for Elijah.
Shani Evans, 13, of Hollidaysburg thinks it is important to remember Elijah's accomplishments.
"He rode away in a chariot and was never seen again," she said. "Hopefully, we make him feel welcomed enough to come."
About Miriam she said, "When we pour water in Miriam's cup, we think about her giving us water, and we give her water in return."
Shani's father, Matthew, emphasized the importance of Passover being associated with freedom and a reminder that all people are not free.
Another parent, Andrea Okonak of Altoona, said she has fond memories of Passovers growing up and hopes her children also will have fond memories.
She also wants them to understand its meaning.
"I want them to learn the history and importance behind the holiday," Okonak said. "And to realize it's a very special time for family and friends to come together."
Morris said every year the importance, of freedom is reinforced. and she likes adding Miriam's cup to keep the seder current.
"Passover is festive. It's happy," she said. "It is very, very special