The Jewish holiday of Passover (also known as Pesach in Hebrew) celebrates the Biblical story of the Exodus, in which Moses frees the Hebrew slaves from Egypt.
It is customary to hold a seder (which means order) on the first two nights of Passover. A seder is a festive meal in which the haggadah (story of the Exodus and prayers related to Passover) is recited in a set order.
During Passover, Jewish people cannot eat leavened products such as bread or pasta. This tradition is based on the fact that the Jewish people had to leave Egypt in haste and did not have enough time for their bread to rise. Instead, they ate matzah, which is a flat unleavened bread.
In 2020, Passover begins with Seder April 8 and 9, and ends April 16.
Passover is my family’s favorite holiday. Here are nine ways we have created special customs and traditions through the years:
1. Hold an advance Chocolate Seder
This is a great way to get your kids familiar with the order and prayers of the seder before the actual night. The seder plate is filled with chocolate variations of the usual items (eg, a chocolate drumstick ice cream replaces a shank bone and a chocolate egg replaces a hard-boiled egg). And instead of four cups of wine or grape juice, you drink four cups of chocolate milk!
2. Design special crafts just for Passover
Consider a jeweled seder plate, colored tissue paper Elijah’s cup, or a felt matzah bag. Each year, I bring out all the Passover crafts that my kids made back in nursery school and put them all over the dining room. The picture of my kids dressed in biblical clothes and headpieces always makes me smile!
3. Roll up some matzah balls
One of the first foods all my kids ate were matzah balls. And they love making them with me, getting their hands dirty, and rolling up the matzah balls and throwing them into the soup. I actually like the matzah balls made from a mix better than the homemade ones, and I just throw them into boxed chicken soup broth and add some round carrots to the soup. Want to make your own? Here's an easy matzah ball soup recipe from Macaroni Kid EATS!
4. Make delicious desserts
Make some easy Passover desserts such as my family's favorite matzah chocolate toffee candy. We go crazy making matzah candy and use all kinds of different baking chips (milk chocolate, toffee, peanut butter, dark chocolate, white chocolate). Then we paint on the chocolates, mix them up, and cover them with colored sprinkles, nonpareils, nuts, candy, etc. They are truly a work of art -- and totally addictive!
5. Create your own hagaddah
The hagaddah is the book that tells the story of Passover and the order of the seder. You can make your own at www.haggadot.com or purchase a special themed Hagaddah.
6. Enjoy Seder!
Your crowd might be limited to just your immediate family this year, but you can FaceTime or call other loved ones to take part in fun traditions like the special “Four Questions” singalong, complete with hand gestures, claps, and banging on the table, and end with Dayenu, which is a kid favorite because you vary it by can sing in funny accents, shout, whisper, or whatever fun way to sing you can come up with!
7. Keep celebrating
Why should all the fun be limited to seder? Have a Matzah Pizza & S’mores Movie Night in the middle of Passover. To make matzah pizza, just add tomato sauce, cheese, and your favorite veggie toppings on top of matzah, and throw it in the oven or microwave.
To make matzah s’mores, just add chocolate and marshmallows on top of matzah and put it in the microwave.
For a movie, depending on your children's ages, check out the The classic "Ten Commandments" movie with Charlton Heston the, 1998 animated film "Prince of Egypt,"or the Rugrats Passover episode, originally broadcast in 1995.
8. Enjoy a Matzah Brei breakfast
Every year, our synagogue has a breakfast with several types of different matzah brei. But this year, you can have a matzah brei breakfast at home and include a buffet with several different toppings such as maple syrup or powdered sugar.
It's easy to make your own: You just need matzah, eggs, and sweet or savory ingredients of your choice like veggies and cheese, or apples and cinnamon. You make it by breaking the matzo into small pieces into a bowl and covering with hot water for a minute. Then squeeze out the hot water. Next, beat one egg with salt and pepper and add the matzo. Mix well. Heat a frying pan with olive oil and pour the mixture in. Brown on one side, turn over, add toppings and serve!
9. Do a good deed and give to charity
Do a Mitzvah (good deed) and give Tzedakkah (charity). You can also send Passover food packages and personal notes to Israeli soldiers.
Merri Cohen is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Western Monmouth, N.J.