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Friday, March 22, 2013

10 Ideas For Your Passover Seder

Passover (a 7-day Jewish festival celebrating the Jewish people's freedom from the Egyptians) starts on Monday and is my favorite Jewish holiday.  I delight in the preparation of the seder (a ceremonial dinner for the first one or two nights of Passover) and the special touches I make to create a meaningful experience for my family.  I browse the Internet and cookbooks for delicious recipes that don't use all of the forbidden chametz foods (now an even greater challenge that I am vegan).  I enjoy planning the tablescape, ordering the flowers and putting together fun items to entertain the kids during the dinner.  It is truly my pleasure.  As a convert, it reinforces my commitment to the religion and the importance of passing it down to my children.  It also makes me feel grateful for the many freedoms I have in my life.

Over the years, I am proud to say that my seders have become something that my whole family looks forward to.  They know I like to kick things up a notch each year and they will be assured a special, fun evening.  Below is a list of 10 ideas that I incorporate into the holiday that have been a hit with my family.  If you are celebrating Passover this year, I hope they inspire you to do something a little extra special this year during your seder.

1. Make bags of Plagues: I create "goodie bags" each year for the kids that include toys and candy that represent the 10 plagues.  Martha Stewart has an example on her site.  Some of the items I have used in the past include:

Blood: Red M&Ms
Frogs: Plastic toy frogs
Lice: Bubbles
Wild beasts: Animal crackers (to be eaten after Passover!)
Cattle disease: Cow stickers
Boils: Bandaids, loofahs (for the bath)
Hail: Gum, marshmallows, bubbles
Locusts: Plastic bugs
Darkness: Plastic sunglasses, beauty eye masks, glow sticks
Slaying of the first born: Glow balls, silly putty (comes in an egg)

2. Have a wine tasting: I added this element to our seder last year and it was a huge hit with the adults!  For the four cups of wine, I selected 4 different Israeli wines that I purchased at Total Wines (they have a nice Kosher section in their store).  For each cup of wine, we sampled a different bottle.

3. Make your own Haggadah: I wrote my own Haggadah about three years ago.  It sets the stage for how my family celebrates the holiday, reinforces the values and knowledge I want them to remember, and keeps up traditions we enjoy each year.  After several years of tweaking our Haggadah, I finally have it just how I want it, but plan to enhance and modify it as the kids get older and their needs and interests evolve.

There are several templates and sample Haggadahs online that you can use to create your own.  I pulled my content from a collection of Haggadahs I had collected and used over the years.  I think the key is to integrate activities and fun into the story of Passover that allow children (and adults!) to engage and interact with the story as it is being told.

4. Act it out: Let My People Go! is a great storybook play.  I have incorporated it into my Haggadah during the part when you tell the story of Passover.  The whole family is assigned parts and everyone gets into it.  It is lots of fun!

5. You Gotta Sing: Music and songs are an integral part of our Haggadah.  Instead of reading, we sing a lot of the typical prayers, using songs that my kids learned (and are learning) in preschool.  This is great for the kids, but also loved by the adults because it adds fun to the seder, while also helping to break up the parts of the long meal.  We also have a book called The Afikomen Mambo that is sung and read during the hiding and finding of the Afikomen.

6. Masquerade: My family loves these masks of the plagues.  As we read them off, the assigned family member puts on their mask and acts out the plague.  Such fun!

7. Go online: Get the kids involved in the planning by having them do some searches for activities they'd like to do during the seder. and are just two of the many websites that have great activities that the kids can browse and choose from.

8. Give them snacks: I have incorporated a tradition at the beginning of the seder where plates of raw veggies and hummus dips are passed around.  They stay on the table during the seder so anyone can nosh as they need until the meal is served.  It was a huge hit the first year that I did it - with the kids and adults who were usually starving by the time the meal started (about 40 minutes after the Haggadah was read).

9. Play games: I am introducing a matching game at the beginning of the seder this year, and also play the game "I am going on an Afikomen hunt and I am bringing a ---" during the meal.  Games are a fun way to break up the meal and give everyone something active to do so they don't get lazy or sleepy.

10. Use toys: I use puppets, coloring pages, (and this year, a plague bowling game I bought at our Temple's Judaica Shop) throughout the Haggadah.  They give the kids something to do so they are not bored, and also keep them engaged with the message that is being read at the particular time during the Haggadah.