No joke: I love hosting the Passover seder.
I love feeding people — I’m both Jewish and Southern, so this is deeply ingrained in me. I love educating people, and I love being Jewish, so the seder is a perfect opportunity to gather the ones I love for a meal — a meal during which they are actually open to me sharing all sorts of fun facts, songs and stories.
If it were up to me, I’d fill every shared meal with readings and inspired discussions. That’s not realistic, of course. But during a Passover seder, at least, people are much more game. So I like to take full advantage of the opportunity and go above and beyond the typical readings and tunes that most people expect.
Yes, I’m a mom — but my toddler and baby weren’t my primary motivation for adding some sass to our seder. (Although one of my all-time favorite seder moments was last year, when our swaddled newborn, placed in a basket, formed a particularly memorable tablescape.) For years I’ve been motivated to find new and different ways to invite my seder guests to see the joy in Judaism that I see every day.
Everyone — kids and adults — loves to play, learn and connect with one other. Passover is the perfect time for that. So here are a few of my seder hacks that I’d totally recommend if you’d like to ensure your festive meal is, in fact, festive.
Make-your-own haroset bar
Having your guests concoct their own haroset (apples, wine, and nuts) is so much fun. On a side table in our dining room, I set up an array of diced fruits, nuts, and a selection of honeys, wines, and juices. (Pro tip: Martinelli’s makes the best apple juice!) I put out cheap, reusable plastic shot glasses so guests can make multiple variations to find their favorite. Sometimes a few of the grown-ups make a concoction that much more closely resembles sangria than haroset, but hey, that’s part of the fun!
Like many families today, I like to make my own Haggadah, or seder guide. But instead of making photocopies, I do it in Powerpoint. We usually drag a big-screen TV into the dining room — though this year we’ve upgraded: we invested in a small projector, so instead we’ll project the Haggadah on a wall. (This is for those who are willing to use electronics on a yom tov or holiday.)
I love doing this for several reasons. I can personalize the presentation and I can make changes up to the last minute. I’ll assign readings by writing a person’s name, add images of the people who are attending (I can even add photos from previous year’s seders, which is particularly fun since we have little kids who have grown a lot in the last year). It’s a multimedia presentation: we play this video about The Four Sons instead of reading that passage; we’ll sing along with the Maccabeats’ version of “Dayenu.” Plus, no one is ever on the wrong page, and everyone is looking up and around instead of down.
Though we follow the Haggadah, we frequently pause to share parts of the story using picture books. It doesn’t seem to matter that there are usually more adults than kids at my seder, everyone welcomes the change of pace. We like to say the Four Questions all together, reading from this awesome picture book that’s both in English and Hebrew, and we read “The Longest Night” to help us imagine the experiences of the enslaved people. We also have several copies of the “Dayenu” board book (thanks PJ Library!), so we have multiple people holding onto it as we sing it in English (just before we watch the video mentioned above).
Schtick it up
I love schtick. But what I don’t love are some of the more popular ways to work it into the seder. (Take those Ten Plagues finger puppets — the plagues weren’t cute, so let’s drop those, OK?) There are myriad other ways for putting some pep into the seder. For example, we like to put the kids in laundry baskets — we give them a ride around the table when we talk about baby Moses in a basket (we do it while singing “Little Taste of Torah”).
We’ll use bubble machines and water sprayers when we talk about the parting of the Red Sea and, for babies, we will play afikomen peek-a-boo, hiding the matzah using scarves or cloth napkins. We use materials like kinetic sand and wax craft sticks, so everyone can craft little avatars of themselves, encouraging each guest to “imagine if you were a slave in Egypt.”
Trust me, with a little creativity (and not a ton of work!), you can have a lot of fun at your Passover seder. I hope your seder is meaningful, memorable and enjoyable. Chag Sameach!
Emily Aronoff Teck is a multi-tasking mom, musician and educator. “Miss” Emily visits Jewish communities to share celebrations and songs with young children and their grown-ups, and manages JewishLearningMatters.com. She earned her doctorate in education in 2018 at Gratz College.