April 20, 2011

SuperMommy's Passover Traditions

Grandmommy and SI after the seder
Chag Samayach to all!

Passover began at sundown on Monday evening, and lasts for eight days and nights.  The start of Passover is a seder, which is the reading of the Haggadah (similar to the Book of Exodus), the eating of the festive meal, much partying and revelry, and of course a host of personal traditions passed down through the generations.

This year we had our family seder in Michigan, at Aunt Genocide's house.  DD, SI, and Grandmommy (Poppa is still in Europe) stayed with Aunt Genocide, and me and M got to stay at a hotel.  Two whole nights, off duty from children.  On the other side of town.  In the traditional Mid-April snow.

It was magical.
DD and SI like Yul Brennar as much as I do

Passover is, for many Jewish families, what Christmas is for many Christian (or even those who identify as secular) families.  A time to get together, to celebrate, to be with family.  As with Christmas, there are a many traditions around Passover.  Some families read "A Christmas Carol," or "The Night Before Christmas," when the season come's 'round.  In our family, we watch my great-grandfather's copy of "The Ten Commandments," which he taped off of the television.  It's not just that it's the Passover story that makes this tape great, it's the commercials.  The tape is from 1986, and things have changed somewhat.  To save this masterpiece of American and Jewish culture, I've burned it to disc.  Just in the nick of time, too.  Just when Moses approaches Ramases to demand the freedom of the Jews, we get a nice four seconds of blackness, with static bars roaming the screen.  Aside from that, the tape is preserved in all of its glory.  Cadbury Creme Egg commercials, complete with camels and lions in bunny ears.  Double Mint twins, riding bikes and sporting matching '80s shoulder pads.  The chant of, "Buuuuuuuy Mennen!"  Lincoln advertising their longest car ever.  Previews for the NEW episode of "Moonlighting."  Highlights of the Mets, off to a great start of a baseball season that they'll go on to actually win.  (Poppa might want to pay more attention to this tape, huh?)

Aunt Genocide leads the seder, surrounded by children
It's a wonderful thing.

There are a few other traditions that my family keeps.  Aunt Genocide makes the ingberlech.  Ingberlech is a kind of traditional ginger candy- it is DELICIOUS.  And it's tricky to make.  It's one of those things where you have to be apprenticed in as a child, and then you can grow up to become a master artisan.  Of ingberlech.  Aunt Genocide has been making it since she was about seven.

I, on the other hand, make the charoseth.  Charoseth is also extremely delicious, but plays a very different role.  It represents that mortar with which the Jews in Egypt made the bricks to build the cities and tombs of the Pharoah.  I make awesome charoseth.  And then it becomes my primary food source for the rest of Passover.

My daughter the plague
I also am the traditional crafter of the place cards.  Place cards are important, because seating cannot be a free-for-all.  It is family tradition that married couples aren't allowed to sit next to each other, that children and those who have never been to a seder sit close to the seder's leader, and most importantly that the people who are running back and forth from the kitchen be close to the kitchen.  Seating is a complicated art, and I am its master.

Because we were slaves in Egypt but now we are free, we recline while we eat.  That means that collecting pillows is important.  Usually this task is delegated to the children- "Go, kids!  Find all the pillows in the house!"  Because we're supposed to get all chametz (bread, or other leavened items) out of the house, that's another slightly older child task- "Go, kids!  Get all the bread out of the pantry!"  This one is super fun because then you get to set it on fire.

DD playing with her salty herbs
Then there's the seder.  Our seders are, I think, fairly traditional.  They last more than three hours.  We read the whole Haggadah.  We eat heartily.  We drink four glasses of wine (at least) apiece.

Yeah, that's in the Haggadah.  Jews are pretty much party people.

But most importantly, in our family seders we invite any and all questions.  The more questions, the better.  Everyone learns when somebody asks a questions.  This is one of the reasons that the children and the "uninitiated" sit near the leader, so as to be all the closer in order to ask questions.  At the beginning of the seder, four questions are always asked- traditionally by the youngest person present.  "Why do we recline tonight?"  "Why do we eat the matzoh tonight?"  "Why do we eat bitter herbs tonight?" and "Why do we dip our herbs in salt water tonight?"  All under the blanket questions, "What makes this night different from all other nights?"

Our youthful questioner
And the leader of the seder responds that those are the questions that we will answer as we tell the story of our liberation from slavery in Egypt.

The seder (finally) ends when we eat the "desert," which is half of a piece of matzoh called the afikomen.  Because the seder is so fun, and children are so clever, the children STEAL the afikomen.  The adults, who understand that they've been reclining at the table and drinking wine for four hours, and would very much like to go to bed, must ransom the afikomen back from the children in order to start cleaning up the dishes and singing merrily.  And thus, the children are bribed with presents to return the afikomen, and the merriment can continue.

There are songs, and more wine, and everyone becomes very silly and sleepy.

And before we all go to bed and pass out, we remind ourselves, "Next year, in Jerusalem!"

DD and M eating Hilllel sandwiches together



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