Passover is a totally different holiday than anything I was used to celebrating growing up Catholic. My first Passover five years ago was the start of making this our biggest Jewish tradition, and we really like it. I think my favorite part about it is the fact that it is ordered chaos. I have never been to anything like it! Here’s what I mean. The very word seder means order (right? Hey, I’m still learning here!). But the very order of evening’s events seems to give rise to a lot of freedom, mix in the kids, and it’s organized chaos. But in a good way! Here are some of the ordered chaos things I have noticed at seders I have attended or hosted.
- Everyone wants to seem to blend together the must have foods, favorite old seder plates, and new things their kids have made. There is a spirit of keeping many things the same, and then changing up something every year.
- Everyone uses their best china and dresses the table up to the hilt, but no one minds if the kids get down every 10 minutes to go play, talk, and throw frogs. Try that at Easter dinner!
- It has become our kids’ tradition to be in charge of making 10 bags with each of the plagues to throw at the numbering of the plagues. No store bought finger puppets for my kids, they love decorating the cows with red spots, and gathering cotton balls for hail. Their favorite may be decorating individual band-aids with gooey paint and glitter glue for boils. The first year Sarah was old enough to talk about it I was really taken aback by how graphic the story was when I thought about it from her point of view, and I wondered how to explain human cruelty and divine punishment to her in a way that didn’t scar her. But time has taught me that they really do benefit from getting to talk about and think about these things and role play in a fun way. They still get the serious lessons, and get to have a little fun with a tyrant that didn’t get his way. I look around at Halloween or Dia de los Muertos, and the need to triumph over scary things seems universal. So good, bring on the bag of fake blood—we can take it.
- I love the way the haggadah is passed around the table for everyone to read from. As my kids have gotten older, they have gotten really proud of being able to do certain parts themselves, reading passages, singing songs with their friends, and other things. Since they attend day school, they learn Hebrew every day from Kindergarten on, so they are very familiar with things that my husband and I are not. They love having things of this important day that they can do better than Mom and Dad!
- I like the fact that Passover is not celebrated at a temple, but led by regular folks at home, around the dinner table. I find something about that so appealing! Maybe it’s just laziness—sitting, eating, drinking, having an intellectual discussion, and celebrating a religious holiday, all at once. That’s a deal.
- The hosts of my first seder asked each family to prepare the answer to a question that was relevant to the holiday. Being my first seder and all, I went into research mode, and over-studied for the test. Some folks took it as general guidance, and others announced that they hadn’t figured it out, but we talked about the questions anyway. No one laughed at my overly long answer (at least in front of me) and now I could tell you quite a bit about Shifra and Puah, should it ever come up again. Next time—I am turning over research duties to my oldest!
So, now that I have reminded myself what I like about Passover, it’s time to start planning! I am not hosting this year, but will be in charge of several dishes, and I think we will consider giving up bread for the first time. Family meeting time, and I’ll keep you posted on how that turns out! And, of course, time to start making the bags of blood.