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This is something I've been wondering for a while, so hopefully I can get a good answer.

Why do we eat gefiltefish during passover, and where did this tradition come from? Is there a story, similar to the story of matzah?

NOTE: This is not a duplicate. This question is asking about passover specifically.

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    I know many Jews who eat gefilte fish every week on Shabbat... – Joel K Apr 26 '20 at 6:56
  • @JoelK I'm not very orthodox, so I wouldn't know. I can't imagine eating it every week though. – LemmyX Apr 26 '20 at 6:58
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    Does this answer your question? Eating fish on Shabbos – user15464 Apr 26 '20 at 12:48
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    Many people do indeed specificaly eat fish on shabbos. One of the reasons for gefilte fish is to avoid the melacha of borer (picking out the bones of the fish. The reason for Passover would be the same as for shabbos. – sabbahillel Apr 26 '20 at 14:43
  • @sabbahillel Are you sure there’s an issue of borer to pick out the bones on yom tov? – Joel K Apr 26 '20 at 15:08
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I've been around practicing Jews, including gefilte fish eaters, all my life, and have never heard of such a tradition. Many Jews eat gefilte fish weekly or even more often; many never eat it at all. I've never heard of a practice of eating it specifically on Passover. Indeed, many Jews won't eat any fish — gefilte or other — on Passover.

I can think of three possible answers to your question, then.

  1. You're wrong. There's no such tradition. You may have been influenced in your thinking by the fact the supermarkets carry a greater variety and quantity of Jewish-style foods on and before Passover, including gefilte fish, and therefore you're associating it with Passover.
  2. The tradition is a new one, caused by the supply-side consideration in the previous bullet point and/or by people's generally feeling more traditional (wanting to return to their gustatory roots) at Passover.
  3. The reason people don't eat fish on Passover is that, in Europe, fish were kept alive by putting whiskey-soaked bread in their mouths (see e.g. Taame Haminhagim, footnote 7 to paragraph 478, who discusses this issue though he doesn't mention not eating fish at all). This can sometimes render the fish non-kosher for Passover (as bread and whiskey are). There is more room for leniency under some circumstances (as also described there) if the fish was bought before Passover began. If you're right that there's a tradition of eating gefilte fish on Passover, then I conjecture that it may stem from having older fish on Passover, bought before the week-long holiday began, which would last longer fresh if turned into gefilte fish than if eaten whole (or people may have thought so, or at least the added ingredients would mask the bad flavor of fish that's going bad). Just a conjecture.
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    4. People who celebrate Passover but don't eat gefilta fish regularly tend to be hosted for Passover by people who do eat it regularly. – Double AA Apr 26 '20 at 13:32
  • [This whiskey stuff is the wildest thing I've ever heard. On the other hand, fish spawn during springtime in Europe, and if you want to eat fish during the rest of the year, it's good to leave them alone in this period.] – Kazi bácsi Apr 26 '20 at 15:47
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    5. people who are less generally observant (and may not have communal, ritualized meals on the sabbath) may hold the Passover seder as a unique expression of their religion and its staple food might be "Jewish" cuisine -- items easily identified with the (dominant in the US Ashkenazic) culture. Maneschewitz, gefilte fish, chicken soup, macaroons etc. – rosends Apr 26 '20 at 18:03
  • @dou good point. Might I suggest you put it in an answer post? – msh210 Apr 26 '20 at 19:09
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    To add a data point to your "I've never heard of a practice of eating it specifically on Passover": We get the packaged gefilte fish during the year, but on Pesach we used to make homemade gefilte fish until it became too much for my grandmother. It's a ton of work and super expensive but much better than the premade stuff, so it's the kind of thing that makes sense to reserve for kavod Yom Tov. – Heshy Apr 26 '20 at 20:37
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This answer adds more to msh210♦ third answer

The real answer is In Europe The ashkanazim did not live off the coast like the Sephardim. Fish was lechoved Shabbat and Yom tif. They did not have refrigerators back then so how did they store their fish? They made it into gefilte fish. If you look at Sephardim they don't really eat gefilte fish, really only Ashkenazim do and for this purpose.

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  • One does not have to eat gefilte fish on pesach – Mordechai Schmerler Apr 26 '20 at 15:59
  • Before the advent of frozen fish sticks, Europeans (including Ashkenazim) went to lakes and rivers to catch fish. And they didn't really have the technology to store gefilte fish for long either. – Kazi bácsi Apr 26 '20 at 18:15
  • gefilte fish lasts longer in a cellar than fish – Mordechai Schmerler Apr 27 '20 at 13:10
  • It's also true for fish in aspic, and especially for salted fish etc. – Kazi bácsi Apr 27 '20 at 13:55

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