A Beginner’s Guide to Celebrating Passover

It’s less than two weeks till the first Seder, so if you haven’t started making plans, what are you waiting for?

A seder platePassover is the most observed Jewish holiday—most Jews, and many non-Jews these days—attend a Seder, the ritual feast on the first night of Passover. There are as many different ways to enjoy a Seder as there are Jews with opinions; strictly traditional Jews read the entire Haggadah (the written guide developed over millenia), which takes many hours, while other Jews read only selected passages.

Some people write their own haggadot, even though there are hundreds of different ones available in any Jewish bookstore. You can find haggadot written from every perspective–New Age to feminist to Buddhist! You can download haggadot from the Internet too. Family-friendly haggadot—with games and projects to keep children entertained—can easily be found as well.

After the reading of most of the Haggadah, comes the feast. Because Jews live all over the world, there are foods from all cuisines that are popular on Seder tables. One thing you won’t find is bread because leavening is forbidden on Passover.  Instead of bread, Jews eat matzah, and only matzah, for the eight days of the festival. Since most American Jews have Ashkenazi, or European, roots, they also avoid rice, beans, and other legumes. Sephardic Jews, those from Mediterranean or Arab lands, do eat rice on Passover, and that tradition is spreading.

A traditional Seder menu includes matzah ball soup, braised brisket, potato kugel, and macaroons. That’s just the bare bones—you can add salads, vegetables, fruit, chopped liver, gefilte fish, and a dozen other dishes.

Now you’re ready to find out more:

Overview of the holiday

Background on the Haggadah

For children’s Passover books

For Passover recipes, including vegan!

Have a zissen, or sweet, Passover.

Photo courtesy of revenante.

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