Creating a Lively Passover

on Thursday, 21 February 2013. Posted in Holidays and Festivals

Each year, the same scenario looms as we get ready Passover.  I get thoroughly stressed about every aspect of the preparation and yet my family is always ready for the holiday just in time.  When I say just in time, that is exactly what I mean.  Our cleaning is completed just before it is time, our seders are ready just as everyone walks into the door, and I usually kvetch until the moment the seder begins.

The bottom-line of my Passover craziness is that by the time the holiday begins, my entire family (including me) is so excited about the seders.  Our seders begin at sundown and go sometimes as late as 2 AM in the morning.  They are dramatic and active from the moment they begin until the moment they end.  Part of the reason for this is because each year we develop our seder as a family.  That means that we listen to our children and our guests and we build it from wherever they stand.  OK, I am an educator too!  Which means that I also have some ideas of how our Passover seder will develop ahead of time.

My hope is that I can share some of our family traditions with you as well as turn you on to a new book that came out last year called Creating Lively Passover Seders:  A Sourcebook of Engaging Tales, Texts and Activities by David Arnow, PH. D at Jewish Lights Publishing.  This book is a solid source of ideas that can help you add spark to your seder.  It is good for families with young children, adults, and anyone in between.

  • Starting from Purim, we tell Passover tales.  Some of these tales are old family stories, while others are children’s books.
  • “Grow one of the items eaten during the Seder:  The Seder requires us to eat bitter herbs (usually either horseradish or romaine lettuce) and to dip a green vegetable (usually parsley) in saltwater.  If you have access to a garden, horseradish could not be easier to grow.  Buy a horseradish root in the grocery store. Cut off the top and place it in a shallow bowl of water for several days until you see leaves begin to sprout from the top and small roots from the bottom.  Plant it where it will get some sun.  It requires virtually no care beyond occasional watering.  Every spring, you’ll notice dark green leaves laying flat on the soil.  Dig up the root below and your all set.  Chances are you’ll find more than one plant, because horseradish tends to spread quickly (p. 95-96).” You can also grow parsley and lettuce.
  • We all clean for Passover together.  My sons check their pockets, vacuum, shlep, shop, etc.  This is a family holiday and they are partners in the process.
  • On the night before Passover, my children hide the Chametz (wrapped in recycled foil) and then everyone else has to go looking.  The boys help me out by saying hot or cold.  Traditionally, people use a candle and feather to aid in this search, but we use a flashlight instead. 
  • The next morning, the boys and I find a community location to burn the leftover Chametz that we found the night before.
  • This year, we will donate Chametz perishable to those that need and we will also make sandwiches to pass out to homeless people too.
  • Pick special clothing that can be worn especially for the holiday.  One of my sons used to wear a frog shirt and a frog kippah. 
  • Before the seder begins, go outside and notice the beauty of the full moon and/or say the blessing for the new moon.  Introduce the idea that Jews have been celebrating Passover during the full moon for thousands of years.  (I have heard of this idea many of times, but it can also be found in David Arnow’s book on page 96.)
  • “After the four questions are read, we will ask a fifth question.  Why is this night not different from all other nights?  Because on this night, millions of human beings around the world still remain enslaved, just as they do on all other nights.  As we celebrate our freedom tonight, we remember those who remain enslaved (pg. 22)”. I will also ask my family to begin actively learning about the products/companies that use slave labor or do not pay fair wages.  And all of us will begin to rethink our shopping choices and make some significant changes if need be.  Feel free to give advice on this if you have information to share.
  • We used to use a lot of theatrics including role-playing and bibliodrama.  Sometimes we even dress-up for the occasion.  (Bibliodrama is a process of getting into character as a means of interpreting and personalizing the story.  For more information, please ask. 
  • We encourage our children and guests to ask any questions that come to mind; this often leads to great discussions.
  • Each of us uses a different Hagadah with different stories, commentaries, and pictures.

Many more ideas for making your Passover special exist; the list is virtually endless.  May your seder be filled with many blessings and may you and your family truly celebrate freedom.

(Note:  In the case that I have given page numbers they are from the book Creating Lively Passover Seders:  A Sourcebook of Engaging Tales, Texts and Activities; by David Arnow, PH. D; Jewish Lights Publishing.)

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