UPDATE YOUR PASSOVER
Passover is one of the most important holidays on the Jewish calendar. It’s the time when Jews all over the world celebrate Moses, Aaron and Miriam leading them out of Egypt and to freedom from slavery.
Most Jewish holidays have one or two dishes associated with them – latkes for Hannukah, hammentashen for Purim, apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah – but Passover has an entire meal, the Passover Seder (SAY-der). Tradition holds that certain foods should be shared, stories told, and games played, but every tradition changes over time, so here are some ways to bring your Seder into the 21st Century.
The Seder Feast contains 15 steps that include telling the story of Moses, ritual washing of hands, blessings and prayers, and the most fun part – the search for the Afikomen (a matzah hidden somewhere in the home for the youngest member of the family to find).
It may sound like a lot (and it can be!) but it’s also a celebration of rebirth, renewal, and freedom. And lounging. Lots of lounging (because as slaves, Jews didn’t have the luxury of rest).
The Seder Plate
The Seder plate holds special significance, with each item recalling an emotion or shared memory of the Jewish people. Getting your own Seder Plate is a rite of passage for Jewish adults – and styles have definitely improved since our bubbies (grandmothers) bought theirs.
What makes a Seder Plate special is the separate spots for each of the symbolic foods served on Passover, so if you don’t have one, a tray or large plate and small bowls or ramekins make a good replacement.
Beitzah – Hard Boiled Egg
The egg is symbolic of sacrifices made in the temples during Moses’ time, as well as Spring – when Passover is always celebrated.
Zeroa – Shank Bone
Another symbolic sacrifice, vegetarians and vegans have replaced it with roasted beets in modern times.
Karpas – Parsley Dipped in Salt Water
The salt water reminds us of the tears shed during slavery in Egypt.
Maror – Bitter Herbs
Horseradish or cilantro which symbolize the bitterness of slavery. Most people will dip this in the Charoset to counteract the bitterness.
Charoset – Fruit, Nuts, Spices, and Wine
Literally translated as bricks and morter, this favorite is symbolic of the bricks the Hebrews used to build in Egypt. This is where cooks can get creative, using apples, pears, dates, and different kinds of kosher wines.
Cup of Elijah
An extra glass of wine is poured to honor Elijah, who, it is said, will arrive one day as an unknown guest and announce the arrival of the Messiah.
Some more liberal Jewish traditions have added to these traditional parts of the Seder in recent years as new issues have arisen in the world’s consciousness.
To symbolize Jewish women and members of the LGBTQ community who have been excluded by more conservative Jewish traditions.
To symbolize interfaith marriage. The thorns protect the heart as interfaith couples protect each other from from those who would disapprove.
A literal olive branch, to symbolize the desire for peace in the Middle East and around the world.
Fair Trade Coffee or Chocolate
To remind us that slavery still exists in the world and to fight for freedom for all.
To remind us of the starvation the Jewish people suffered in the concentration camps and that food insecurity, hunger, and starvation are still issues in our modern world.
To honor the role that Miriam played in leading the Jews out of Egypt.
Now on to the food!
Enough with the matzo ball soup! Bring some excitement and flavor to your table with these exciting appetizers.
The star of the show…and we’ve only got one brisket on the list and not a gifilte fish in sight!
The main dish might be the star of the show, but it can’t perform without some awesome sides.
You’ve made it through the salt water tears and bitter herbs. It’s time to celebrate the sweet life…with DESSERT!
Don’t Forget the Wine!
Manischewitz. It’s the traditional kosher wine, but it’s sickly sweet flavor is more than most can handle – which is a real problem since it’s tradition to drink FOUR GLASSES during the meal (there are a few different stories about why this is). Luckily, lots of wineries are offering Kosher for Passover options these days – The Street, Food and Wine, and Snooth have all named their favorites, so you should have no trouble finding the perfect pairing for your meal.
That’s it! Read the Haggadah, have the youngest diner ask the Four Questions and sing a round of Dayanu – you’ve made it through Passover!