We’ve culled an extensive list of ideas for you to mix up your seder this year. If you try any of these, we’d love to hear how it went for you! Also, tell us your ideas (email Michelle Sandler) and we’ll add them to the list for others to try.
The holiday of Pesach reminds us of the Israelite’s exodus from Egypt over 3,000 years ago, and ultimate freedom from slavery. Pesach, the Hebrew word for Passover, means to ‘pass over,’ ‘pass through,’ ‘to exempt,’ or ‘to spare.’ When the Israelites were freed from Egyptian bondage, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread to rise. In commemoration, no leavened bread is eaten throughout Pesach.
On the eve of the fifteenth day of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls in March or April, Jews around the world gather in homes, surrounded by family and/or friends to enjoy a special home service and festive meal called the seder (order). A book called the hagaddah (telling) guides participants through the seder. It contains the order of prayers, rituals, readings and songs.
Elaine’s Brisket (winner of the 2014 Brisket & Kugel Cookoff)
TRS member Barbara Sarshik has written song parodies from Broadway, Beatles and many other musical genres. These 66 song parodies are in a songbook organized by specific parts of the seder and themes. Each song has its own number, making it easy to designate particular songs for singing during your seder. Or if you only want a few songs, you’ll also find each song printed on its own page, in large print with attractive graphics. It’s easy to print out the entire songbook or just a few songs for your seder. Want to find a song from Phantom of the Opera or by Taylor Swift? Check out the sortable table that allows you to find songs by particular genres or artists. The songs are freely available to everyone.
Here’s a good song for starting Passover: “Do You Hear Our People Sing?” to the tune of “Do You Hear The People Sing?” from Les Miserables. Parody lyrics by Barbara Sarshik, performance by the Charosettes (Women of TRS members), videography by Bob Suslowitz.
New this year – a video song parody: “Eight Days? A Week?” co-written by Leah Pike Honey and Barbara Sarshik.
“Break It Off,” a parody of Taylor Swift’s mega-hit “Shake It Off,” written by Lizzy Pike and David Vanca, who are Temple members as well as Barbara Sarshik’s daughter and son-in-law.
From TRS member Marsha Goldberg: each of our guests signs the inside cover of their haggadah. That way, we have an ongoing record of who shared the holiday with us in past years. It’s also fun to see who used your haggadah before you.
Create Your Own Haggadah
As suggested by member Caroline Mayer: I’ve hosted our family seder now for many many many years. And over the years, we’ve collected all sorts of bits of papers that we’ve cut and pasted into Haggadah we have used. Making it an unsightly mess and hard for everyone at the table to follow.
But creating my own family Haggadah? I thought that was the ultimate act of chutzpah; after all, growing up our Haggadah talked about all the rabbis who over the years have debated the meaning of this and that word. So who was I to tinker! But it was when I was catching up my good childhood friend Ron Wolfson during his weekend tutorial at TRS about Relational Judaism, that I changed my mind. Ron had written a book on how to personalize a seder so he encouraged me to put together my own family Haggadah. I started months in advance to put it together.
It was much easier than I thought, thanks to all sorts of online resources, especially haggadot.com, and other Passover Haggadah by Rabbi Amy Schnierman that enabled me to cut and paste a lot of the Hebrew. I also used lots of clip art to make it less gray. And best part: I enlisted one of our participants, an artist himself, to draw a cover. The result, graphic art featuring the Jews from the diaspora to the shetls to ultimately lining up at our house for the sedar.
We used it last year and everyone loved it, as it incorporated the best of the old Haggadahs and some new items too (e.g. “There’s No Seder Like Our Seder”). I’ve edited it since then to correct a few of the typos etc. and now the seders are all ready to go again this year.
As suggested by TRS member Sharon Levy: We always have a job board with jobs written out for people to do at the Seder. It starts with filling the water glasses and putting food items on the table and then: Clearing the Seder plates used during the first part of the Seder; serving the gifilte fish; clearing the gifilte fish plates; serving the hard boiled eggs; clearing the egg plates; serving the matzo ball soup; clearing the soup bowls; serving the dinner plates; clearing the dinner plates….
I pair a child with an adult for everything except serving the soup. It’s gotten to be a game with folks and our guests bargaining with each other about which job they have or would rather have and trading with each other. Lots of laughter while this is going on. It’s also a good way for people who don’t know each other to get to know one another quickly and it also prevents everyone from crowding in the kitchen saying, “What can I do to help?” and everyone jumping up after every course to try and help and having chaos in the kitchen. The kids love being a part of it too!
Squishy eyeballs for boils, pretend grasshoppers for vermin, plastic skeletons for the slaying of the first born, chocolate covered cherries or red gems for blood, plastic toy frogs or kermit stickers for frogs, confetti for lice, plastic lions and tigers or masks for wild beasts, plastic cows for cattle disease, bubble wrap or Band-aids for boils, mini marshmallows/styrofoam balls/ping pong balls for hail, plastic bugs for locusts, plastic black sunglasses or a black headband over the eyes for darkness, skeletons/skeleton stickers or plastic babies for slaying of the first born.
While most young children actually enjoy the Seder, there are some moments that may not hold their attention as long as others. Little ones will appreciate the opportunity for diversion, which you can supply thanks to homemade place mats. Use large, white poster board or construction paper to create place mats decorated with Passover games and age-appropriate questions. Some ideas:
• A maze: (children can use their fingers to trace their way from slavery to freedom).
• Make silly doodles and challenge children to find Passover designs (a piece of matzah, any of the plagues).
• Draw two Pharaohs, but make about 10 slight changes from one to another. Ask children if they can find the differences between the two.
• Matzah Man, and other silly stuff: Draw a blank square and say it’s a piece of matzah. See if your child can imagine ten, twenty or thirty different ideas as to what the square could become. For example, she might tell you that with just a head, arms and legs, the square would be Matzah Man. Add a roof and a window and you would have a house for the matzah.
• Make a word search using Passover terms at this word search creator website.
Give each child a bingo card and mini marshmallows or chips to cover their squares.
Write, call or e-mail family and ask them to write down or tell you a Passover memory. If they hesitate, prompt them with a few, specific questions: “Do you remember what your mother made for the Passover meal? What did it taste like, smell like? What part was your favorite dish?” Or, “Was it your family tradition to hide the afikomen? Who was the best hiding person? Where were some of the places it was hidden?” Or for a family member from another country, “What was it like during Passover where you grew up?” Compile these memories into a book to be read at appropriate times during the Seder. Not only is it interesting for children (and parents), it helps build a sense of tradition as younger members learn about their family history.
Play “I Spy” to identify or introduce ritual objects, Pesach foods or anything else at the seder. For example: I spy something…
At the Seder, some families have the custom of leaning to one side, as a wealthy man might have during a meal. It’s tradition to have a pillow for the rest. Have your guests decorate pillow covers to use at the Seder. Visit our Pinterest site for lots of great ideas.
Explain that everyone is like royalty on Seder night. Since kings and queens do not pour for themselves, everyone gets a “pouring partner” who fills their glass with wine or grape juice at the appropriate time. People pair up and have fun with this.
For the first wine or charoset put out a variety of choices and ask your guests to vote for their favorite.
Build a scavenger hunt where the clues tie to the story of the Hagaddah. Hide the Afikomen somewhere in the house. Write out a series of clues that will lead the kids from the dining room table to the Afikomen. Hide the clues underneath the kids’ plates or glasses. Start the hunt with a clue that you read and then let the fun begin. Some ideas for clues: Pharoah threw the Jewish babies into the Nile (bathtub), Eliyahu is ready to walk into the house (front door)., etc. More ideas.
Purchase some dollar store “prizes” for kids. When they ask a good question (which is what we’re trying to stimulate), they get a prize. Also give prizes for asking the Four Questions, singing, reading, etc. The kids will keep busy playing with their prize until they think of another good question and jump back in.
Have your guests narrate the voices of Moses, God, or whomever they’d like.
Have your guests role play different scenes from the story in first person using feelings. For example, “I am Yocheved, it terrified me to send my baby boy into the waters of the Nile.” “I am Moses, I felt. . .”
Play Plague Charades.
Do a spontaneous Seder Table Wave.
Ask your guests to tell a creative alternative use for each of the items on the Seder plate.
Ask your guests to give ideas for a new Seder plate symbol to represent some aspect of the Exodus experience.
Have an Iron Chef or Top Chef style competition with a some traditional and non-traditional Passover food items. Have your guests be the judges.