So, It’s Your First (OneTable) Passover Seder

WHAT EVEN IS A SEDER?

Passover is a holiday when Jews celebrate their escape from oppressive overlords. (Not to be confused with the other holidays when we celebrate our escape from other oppressive overlords.) This eight-day freedom festival commemorating the Jewish people’s exodus (a word you might recognize if you’ve done the bible thing) from slavery in Egypt starts with a seder.

The seder, the main event, the big deal, is a story-telling, ritual-thick, food extravaganza. And it happens twice: there are first night seders (this year on March 30th) and second night seders (March 31st). Seder literally translates as “order” and that should give you an idea how this is going to go down.

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT?

Every Passover seder, like every Shabbat dinner, is unique. But here are some things that will probably be involved:

  • Storytelling and ritual:
    • Haggadah – Hebrew for “telling,” this is the Passover guidebook that the host, and probably the participants, are going to read from. There are dozens of different haggadahs with different themes and focuses.
    • Seder Plate – There will likely be a special plate in the center of the table featuring ritual food items that you will have to eat bits of before you get to eat real food.
  • Matzah: Many Jews who observe Passover follow the “no leavened bread” rule, so matzah becomes a replacement for all the fluffy carbs. Get ready to eat a lot of matzah.
    • Afikomen – This is a super special piece of matzah that the host might hide and make you find it if you’re the youngest, and/or there are no children and everyone gets too drunk to remember where they left it.
  • Wine: See reference to drunkeness above. The haggadah is going to demand you each drink four glasses of wine, at least.

SHOULD I BRING SOMETHING?

So considerate of you! If only all our guests were so thoughtful! The seder host has been cooking all day, maybe all week, and has probably forgotten to pick up something. Text/call/email them and see if you should grab some fresh horseradish or more matzah. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with another bottle of wine.

HOW CAN I PREPARE?

If you’re new to Hebrew, you can practice saying Chag Sameach (pronounced “chawg sah-may-ach” – with the “ch” sound like you’re clearing your throat), which means “Have a happy holiday!” Or, you know, you could just say “Happy Passover!”

You may also want to look over the story of the Book of Exodus if you don’t know anything about it, like the Wikipedia page is pretty informative. Or watch the Rugrats episode and The Prince of Egypt, where I learned everything I know.

Al Rosenberg

Al Rosenberg is the director of marketing and communications at OneTable. Al lives on the west side of Chicago, loves food festivals and board games, is a board member at Mishkan, and hosts a monthly Rosh Chodesh Well Circle.

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