For many Jews, Passover is the most important of all Jewish holidays. In fact, more Jewish Americans observe Passover than any other Jewish holiday. Passover is considered a big deal because many families come together to share a special ceremonial festive meal called a seder.
The staff at InterfaithFamily/Chicago has come up with five tips to help you plan your best Passover seder.
1 Be creative.
Most people use a book called a Haggadah to guide their Passover seder. There are just short of a million different versions of a Haggadah, and while there are many similarities among them, each one is very different. You can search “Passover Haggadah” to find some hard copy options as well as many online, such as Haggadot.com, where you can download and/or personalize. Some focus on a theme such as Israel, women, interfaith families, cartoons or music. There are so many ways to tell the story, songs to sing, ideas to decorate your table and the room, special readings to include, that each seder (Passover service in the home) is unique, so be creative!
2 Be open to trying new things.
Yes, there is beauty and joy in tradition and repetition. You can use the same Haggadah that you have used for the last 100 years with notes and wine stains all over it. There is nothing wrong with that. However, it’s also fun to add a new element – a new reading, recipe, song, poem, craft, etc. Ask your friends to suggest something fun and unique they do at their seder and you are likely to hear many great ideas. One of our favorites is a Sephardic (Spanish/Italian Jews) tradition of hitting each other with green onions during the singing of Dayenu, (meaning, “It would have been enough!” a traditional Passover song about many of God’s gifts during the exodus from Egypt. The green onions represent the whips the Egyptians used on the Israelite slaves.
3 Make your Seder a full sensory experience.
Passover is meant to be experienced with all our senses. You will taste many wonderful (and some not so wonderful) foods, and each will bring a distinct smell to the room – especially the horseradish! Make the seder table and the room a beautiful sight by decorating for the occasion using the theme of freedom, the Red Sea, spring, plagues or the number four (there are many fours as part of a seder). Everyone present will be listening to the stories and songs you decide to include in your seder. Feel free to use clapping and tambourines as well. There are so many things on a seder table that everyone can touch. It is a custom to lean on a soft pillow during a seder since only a free person can lean during a meal.
4 Share the work load.
There are many pieces to hosting a seder, including planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning, picking out a Haggadah, leading the seder, etc. You do not need to do it all yourself. It is common to ask family and friends to bring a dish to a dinner party, and you can certainly make this request for your Passover dinner, too. Passover is a time where we are encouraged to “welcome the stranger.” This would be a good time to invite your spouse or other relatives of another faith to take part. Each guest will enjoy being a bigger part of the seder and you will enjoy having less on your proverbial plate.
5 Know that your way is the right way.
If you went into 100 homes on Passover and observed 100 seders, each one would look and feel a little different. While there are usually some common elements, part of what families tend to love about Passover is that we can each make it our own. The way you choose to do your seder is the right way; don’t compare your Passover and your seder with anyone else’s. What is right and meaningful for you and your family is up to you. Don’t be surprised that no matter how great your seder is this year, you may decide to do things differently next year…and that seder will be the right way, also.
Want to learn more? InterfaithFamily/Chicago is hosting two free model seders on March 12 and March 19. Participants will receive a binder of recipes, readings, songs and information, taste some Passover foods and participate in a short seder.
For more information or to sign up, email JudyJ@interfaithfamily.com.