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My Recipe for a Stress-Free, Fun-Filled Seder Night

Grandparents, what are you doing for this year’s Seder? Are you getting out the fine crystal used only once a year? Same for the bone china. Perhaps you’re worrying – or hopefully smiling – about the new wine stains that will adorn your tablecloth and Hagaddah?

Me? I’m determined to have a stress-free Seder, and have been of this mindset even before I became a grandmother a year-and-a-half ago. The transformation took place when I researched and wrote Passover Around the World.That year was one major Aha moment. Finding out about diverse customs from across the globe made me switch my focus from the kitchen to content. Hagaddah content that is, and how to make it come alive. Now that I’m on the Grandma track, I’m wondering if I’m going to be successful in keeping my grandson awake and involved during the first half.

Of course, that’s in another two years, if not more. But here’s my game plan. Since some scholars believe that Esther held her feast on the first night of Passover,

I’m going to inject a heavy dose of Purim into Passover by putting together a Passover dress-up box. I’ll show it to my grandson, explain about the slavery we experienced back in Egypt and our journey to freedom, then let him rummage through the pieces, mixing and matching an outfit that will transform him into one of the Children of Israel.

This idea hit me when I discovered a practice that I’ve subsequently dubbed The Sephardi Prologue –  a short, one-act play. It goes like this: A designated participant leaves the table while the Seder leader breaks the middle matzah in half. A behind the scenes transformation takes place with the participant emerging dressed up as one of the Children of Israel. S/he then knocks on the door, signaling the beginning of a brief dialog with the Seder leader who starts by asking “Who are you?” Answer: “I’m one of the Children of Israel.” Next question: “But I thought you’re a slave in Egypt.” Reply: “I was. Now I am free.” Question: “Where are you going?” Answer: “To Eretz Yisrael – The Land of Israel.” The leader then wraps it up by saying “Welcome. Come sit at our table before you continue your journey.”

Don’t you agree that a little boy or girl play can play that part instead? Especially if you modify the dialog to a more child-friendly tone. Holding pre-seder rehearsals is a novel way of fulfilling the commandment V’hegadita Le Bincha – passing the story down from one generation to the next. Creating a dress up box turns the Seder into a hands-on experience. Expanding the play to include other sections in the Hagaddah – well, I’ll leave that up to you.

In short, transforming the Seder into a stress-free, fun-filled event is a lot more palatable than standing over a hot oven.

Would you like the names of the catering service I’m using and the store where I’m buying my disposable “bone China”?