As previously discussed in my Chinese New Year and St. Patrick’s Day posts, my family is trying to celebrate high days from other cultures this year. It started as an addition to our Homeschooling, but now I think Passover will be in our annual repertoire of holidays we celebrate for the rest of our lives. When my family was discussing which cultural holidays we wanted to celebrate, my husband was very passionate on his choice of holiday to celebrate: Passover. We are Christians and have heard of the Passover all our lives (For one thing Jesus celebrated it and for another the original Passover when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt is very memorable), but neither my husband nor I could tell you what was involved in the Passover celebration or how it is celebrated by Jews today.
Even though we had talked about celebrating the Passover back in January, we had never set a date or talked any logistics at all until the week before we were supposed to be celebrating. We researched it heavily over the next couple of days and found that it was totally within our grasp to celebrate the Passover this year. Now, because we are Christians, we left out some traditional Jewish sections and customs that don’t jive with what we believe. And we definitely strove to make every section point to Jesus as the ultimate Passover Lamb.
In this post I’ll tell you about our research and our practical preparation. Then in next week’s post I’ll give you the details of our Seder (Passover Meal, pronounced SAY-der) and what we’re going to change for next year. I really hope that this will encourage you to host your own Passover Seder. It was such an enriching experience!
I began my research on Pinterest (really, where else would I start?) and searched “Passover with kids.” I knew that Passover was a long meal, like 3-4 hours long, and I was afraid that my kids wouldn’t be able to sit through it all. To my surprise – and delight – I learned that the whole point of Passover is to teach children about how God saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. If you aren’t up on your Biblical history here’s a brief explanation of what the Passover is: The Jews (Israelites) were slaves in Egypt. God sent Moses to tell Pharaoh to, “Let my people go!” But Pharaoh wouldn’t listen. God sent 10 plagues (frogs, gnats,darkness, hail, etc.) to try to convince Pharaoh to release them, but Pharaoh wouldn’t listen until God killed the firstborn of all the people and animals. The only ones who were exempt from this were the people who had the blood of a lamb over their doorway. Those people were (you guessed it) the Israelites. God’s angel passed over those houses; hence: Passover. It is a celebration to remind people that the Lord kept his promise to bring his people out of the land of Egypt. You can read the whole riveting story for yourself in the Bible in Exodus, chapters 7 to 13.
The first thing I read about celebrating the Passover was The Beginners Guide to Passover at Kitchn.com. Lisa did a great job of explaining things to me! I felt like now I knew the basics and could start some more informed searching. So I next looked for my own copy of the Haggadah (pronounced hah-GAH-duh). The Haggadah is the book that takes you through the Seder. It has what you need to say word-for-word, and what you need to eat or drink, when you need to eat or drink it. I looked all over Amazon, but since we were just a week away I couldn’t find anything that would arrive on time. The Haggadah we used is The Passover Haggadah: A Guide to the Seder. It’s a downloadable PDF made by The Jewish Federation. My husband and I went through it together and decided which parts we would leave out, and what preparation each part needed (more on that later).
I ended my research with The Torah Sisters’ “How I Celebrate a Gospel Centered Passover.” I love, love, LOVED this! Amy made the Passover seem so doable. She laid it all out with helpful tips, and what works best for her and her family (and the several families she has as guests!). I highly recommend taking a look at Amy’s post if you’re planning on celebrating a “Gospel Centered Passover.”
To prepare for the Passover, the first thing I needed to do what to figure out what all these strange foods were. What on Earth is Charoset? and Matzah??? And I have to MAKE them?? I can’t just go buy them? Well, I know the answers now, and I will enlighten you.
Charoset is a combination of diced apples, nuts, spices and wine. It represents the bricks and mortar that the Israelites were forced to make for the Egyptians. And it turns out it’s delicious. There are many variations on this, and many recipes on the internet. I used the charoset recipe at Epicurious, but Amy (Torah Sisters) wrote to make it very sweet, so I also added a tablespoon or two of sugar. It took almost no time to make.
Matzah is an unleavened bread. It symbolizes the unleavened bread that the Israelites ate. Because they left Egypt in such a hurry their bread didn’t have time to rise. The recipe we used is from the 16th Century. How cool is that? You can find it by clicking on this link to The Ann Arbor News. The story behind it is completely astounding. This also is a pretty quick item to make. BUT when you forget the eggs and are working with ridiculously hard little lumps of dough it takes a lot longer. Especially when you realize that you have hard little lumps instead of gloriously smooth balls because you forgot the eggs (because you were trying to talk on the phone at the same time) and have to throw it in the garbage and start all over again 😢. But I’m going to make again myself next year because it SHOULD only take a little bit of time (maybe 30 minutes).
The Seder Plate has the four main items used as symbols. (This is where we left some things out. You can research it yourself if you want to know what a Jewish Seder plate has.) It includes: a bone to symbolize the Passover lamb (we had planned on using the lamb bone, but when we switched to tacos we just cut out a bone out of white paper), “Maror” a bitter herb to symbolize the bitterness of slavery (we used horseradish), charoset and “Karpas” another bitter herb, which gets dipped in salt water representing the tears shed in slavery) we used parsley.
We wanted to have lamb for our Passover meal. It seemed appropriate considering that’s what the Israelites had. However, when I went to the store to buy it I found that it was $37 for a little leg of lamb. I just couldn’t justify that expense. So we had tacos. I know… But we were trying to think of something that we could prepare in advance and just pull out at the last second. So we had everything ready and sitting on the counter in time for our Seder to start, then we just reheated our precooked taco meat in the microwave when it was time for dinner. It was actually perfect. The kids love tacos, and there wasn’t much to clean up after the Seder.
Amy from Torah Sisters said it well, “I want my kids to know this is a special day and we bring out the best to honor Yeshua for this special date with His Father.” So my main goal was to make it beautiful so my children would know it’s a special day. We all dressed up in our fancy clothes, used a table cloth and wine glasses (even for the kids) and I put flowers on the table. The flowers were the leftover artificial flowers from our DIY Easter Bonnets (you can see a glimpse of our Easter bonnets on top of the china cabinet. They’re up there for safe keeping until Easter Sunday), and the greenery was the leftover parsley from our Seder plate.
In this picture you can see we put a red table cloth over the door frame to represent the blood of the lamb (Exodus 12:7). My husband nailed in two long nails on the top of the door frame and draped the table cloth over them.
You can also see that there are pillows on the chairs. This is to represent that we are free. Free people recline at the table, while slaves stand. We thought about having the Passover in the living room to recline better, but I thought all that grape juice in the living room would be a huge mistake, so we decided to move pillows into the dining room instead.
Passover is supposed to start at sundown, but since we don’t need to do every tradition we decided to start at 5. We therefore closed the blinds to give the illusion that it was dark outside.
What’s on the Table?
- Place setting for each person, including small spoons for the horseradish
- A paper napkin for each person. They will drip their wine on this. I thought the kids would like to see the drops, and it kept the mess to a minimum. I have no idea where Jewish people sprinkle the 10 drops (representing the 10 plagues), but this worked very well for us.
- Wine and/or grape juice
- Seder Plate
- Small bowl of salt water
- Matzah (3 matzah stacked and wrapped in a serviette)
- Two candles (and matches or lighter)
Two More Things
- Nearby by you’ll need a bowl of warm water and towel for ceremonial hand washing. The water sits for a while before being used, so I’d actually recommend hot water, then it’ll still be warm when you need it. We put a small mug in the bowl so that you could scoop the water up and pour it on your hands.
- We had Easter eggs ready to reward each child if they sat through the section and paid attention well. Only a couple sections went by where a child did not receive the hoped-for egg. We found it to be a very handy motivational tool!
This may look like a lot, but honestly it wasn’t. I was pretty excited about it, so that always helps to motivate me. Plus we celebrated Passover on Good Friday so I had the whole afternoon to put on the finishing touches. Tune in next week to see how it all turned out (spoiler alert: IT WAS AWESOME!!!)