Passover Seder (dinner) essentials

How to pass(over) as a Jew this holiday

by: Shaina Herman | 22 Mar 2013
Passover dinner information

Were you invited to a Passover (aka Pesach) dinner this year and have no clue what a Seder actually is?  

What is Pesach anyway? 

And why do religious Jewish men have those curly cues on the sides of their faces (which has nothing to do with Passover)?   

Sure, the Jewish customs seem a bit weird; they derive from thousands of years of history. And, to be honest sometimes Jews just really want to eat and drink for the sake of eating and drinking and make a holiday just for that.  

So, here’s the 101 on Passover for smooth sailing to get in with your Jewish friends and score some culture points:

Know the story:
·    Passover literally means to pass over, as in God passing over a Jewish person’s house and not plaguing that house  (cannot confirm how well this worked as there are no tweets or facebook posts remaining at this time)
·    Occurred over 3000 years ago when Moses freed the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.
·    The Pharaoh of Egypt could not be challenged and wouldn’t let the Jewish people leave from his power.
·    Moses ensures Pharaoh that God’s going to get him hard with horrific punishment until he frees the slaves.
·    Pharaoh says no way Moshe (aka Moses) and the plagues begin.
·    The 10 plagues go down relentlessly.
·    The Pharaohs’ first born son dies and he agrees to free the Jewish people.  
·    Huzzah! 40 years of wandering in the desert to come!

What is a Seder dinner?
The Seder is the actual dinner experience including the cultural service.  Seder translates to English as "The Order": everything in the service has its historical  and traditional place.

Jewish people all over the world celebrate Passover by coming together and eating 2-3 large family dinners for consecutive nights.  

This is one of the most celebrated holidays for the Jewish culture and religion.  Even if you don’t observe religiously, you’ll probably still go home to visit the family for a few days, and if you don’t want to, you will definitely be guilted into it by some sort of “your grandparents are getting old,” type maneuver.

Get to know the Seder plate:
A Seder plate sits in the middle of the table with traditional items on it to represent the holiday.  They are involved in the Seder service.

-Beitzah : egg  - a symbol of new life.
-Zeroa: shankbone  - a symbol of the sacrificial lamb and the blood used to “tag” the doors of the slaves (it was all the rage and just FYI, this does not happen anymore).
-Charoset:  apples, walnuts, and honey  mixed together – symbolizing the mortar of the old Jewish temple.
-Salted Water: symbolizing the tears of the Jews
-Maror:  bitter herbs – representing the bitterness of slavery.

Matzo and unleavened food:
For 8 days Jewish people do not eat food that rises.  This can vary depending on each family and person, but for most people it means cutting out wheat.

Jewish people do this to honour their ancestors fleeing from Egypt without enough time for their bread to rise, creating basically a cracker.

So if you want to bring something, probably don’t and if you do, look for a symbol that says “Kosher for Passover” on it. 

The Matzah hunt:
A search for a piece of cracker cleverly stashed by the resident adults of the house while the kids run around the house to find it: basic trickery to keep the kids involved since the service only starts after sunset.

Sometimes the adults in the family forget to bring small change and the kids score a big bank note!

The Passover service:
There’s about an hour or so of singing and add more time for more observant friends.   

Just learn the plagues and wait for the fun songs about them.  They come, and everyone starts dipping their pinkies into the wine,  but then you get to drink the wine, there’s lots of drinking.... you’ll see.

Plagues in order:
-Water into blood: rough town for finding fish and other food sources for the Egyptians.
-Frogs: a ridiculous amount of frogs.
-Vermin:  lice, gnats, and fleas.
-Flies: in the houses of the Egyptians, we’re talking thick swarms in your living room
-Pests: epidemic disease killing all live stock.
-Boils: yikes city!
-Hail: kind of like when Joburg gets those golf ball sized numbers.
-Locust: so plague-y that they cover the sky.
-Darkness:  no sun = no sight and no work.
-Death of the first born: pretty much how it sounds.

Passover Vocabulary:

-Passover-  Jews use lamb shank and blood of a sacrificed lamb on their doors to signify they shouldn’t be plagued and they were Passed Over - ZING that’s where it comes from!
-Gefilte fish -  a traditional German European dish that minces the fish and serves it as a sort of fishloaf, this could go either way for a person
-Haggadah - the book with all the stories and prayers in it.
-Eliyahu - the invisible guy that the door is left open for, seriously.
-Manischewitz - religious wine 

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