Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday. As a kid, I loved the rituals, songs and ceremonial foods commemorating the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt over 3,000 years ago. Okay, I admit it was tough to wait for hours before dinner finally arrived, but luckily my mother’s snacks and my dad’s irreverent sense of humor kept our family happy. This year we’ll serve an extra helping of gratitude for being able to gather safely together in person instead of over Zoom.
But if your childhood Seders bring back memories of a growling stomach, drooping eyelids and endless prayers in a strange language, you may not share my joy at this holiday. But hey, your family may have assumed that if Moses and the Israelites could survive on matzah and manna for forty years in the desert, then waiting a few hours for dinner wasn’t going to kill you. “Oh yeah?” I hear you muttering, “why should I suffer just because my ancestors did?” Okay, I get it.
That’s exactly why I’m offering three tips to make your Seder experience more manageable, meaningful and magical:
Tip #1: Don’t Arrive Hungry
Jewish holidays may be all about the food, but that doesn’t mean the main meal will arrive any time soon! It could take several hours to answer the question of “why this night is different from all other nights?” So, nosh on a little snack or a late lunch before the ceremony. You’ll feel better with something in your belly as you start on the four cups of wine. Now sit back and relax. After a while, you won’t notice how hungry you are anyway.
Tip #2: Don’t Bring Bread
That means no baguettes, cakes, cookies or anything with yeast. At Passover, it’s traditional to eat only unleavened matzah like our forefathers in the desert. But that doesn’t mean no desserts. There are many recipes for flour-less cakes and other delicious goodies. Oh, and please no pork such as bacon-wrapped asparagus, tasty though it is. If you’re still unsure what to contribute, how about some candles, flowers, or an extra beverage?
Tip #3: Expect Chaos before Order
In Hebrew seder means order and Israel derives from the root for struggle. Put them together at Passover and you have an epic struggle to make order! If your Seder is anything like mine, there will be much boisterous debate, though not mean-spirited. Everyone will be talking fast and “arguing the hind legs off a donkey,” as my mother liked to say. If you don’t jump in, you won’t get a word in edgewise!
Bonus Tip #4: Have Fun with Hebrew
Don’t be afraid to spit out those guttural Hebrew words with gusto. The prayers may feel prickly on your tongue, but their inner meaning will sweeten your soul.
Now, if you haven’t passed out by the time the chicken soup arrives, enjoy another cup of wine (or grape juice) and sing “Dayenu!”