How to Make a Family-Friendly Passover Seder: New Ideas for an Age-Old Tradition!

Haggadah Section: Commentary / Readings


Age-old Tradition!
by Alice Langholt,   February 06, 2006
Passover is the holiday that even the Jews who practice the least always seem to
celebrate.  So many of us sit with the same old dry, wine-stained Hagaddah published
by Maxwell House that our family has used for generations. We try to get through it, the
same old readings, the same rituals, and trying to keep the kids from spilling their grape
juice, and our stomachs rumbling louder than we can sing "Dayenu."  Sound familiar?
Well, there is and can be more to a Passover Seder than this.
It isn't hard to change your family tradition and highlight the themes and meaning of
Passover, while keeping the kids interested at the table.  You will even manage to get to
the meal without feeling like you'll pass out if we don't eat soon!  Here are some ideas
Have snacks available all through the beginning of the seder.  They are permissible!
Especially vegetables and dip.  Since we're dipping parsley into salt water, we can
continue to have a little appetizer to get us through the beginning.  Hard boiled eggs
don't have to wait.  So, don't be afraid to nibble.
Hand-washing: have everyone wash the hands of the person next to them.  This can
involve everyone, and symbolizes the freedom we enjoy now.  Slaves couldn't stop and
wash their hands.  They couldn't do for others.  Washing another person's hands (even
wiping them with a warm, damp cloth), is a loving thing to do for someone, and shows
that we are free to be caring people.  Isn't freedom great?
For the plagues, here are some family friendly ideas.  Assign people around the table to
act out one plague when we get to it. Or, give everyone paper and colored pencils or
crayons and assign them to draw an assigned plague, and then show it to the group,
either having the group guess which it was, or explaining their drawing.  Individual
interpretations are always welcome at a Seder!  Even adults can have a good time with
this.  Have sound effects prepared for a number of plagues.  Play them as each one is
listed.  Have little toys that symbolize a plague at each place and have the people guess
which is theirs, and then they have to explain why they think so.  Examples of these can
be band-aids for boils, RID for lice, stuffed animals for wild beasts, sunglasses for
darkness, an obit for death of the firstborn.  When that last plague is read, have each
person at the table who is the first born in their family stand.  At my family seder, we
have a reading that the first born all read together.  Have a discussion about modern
plagues in our lives, such as greed, abuse of power, lying, violence, destruction of our
earth's resources, apathy, etc.  Kids can work on their plague drawings during the seder
Have lots of songs to sing. [ Editors note: world's largest Seder Songbook is available for
Ask the kids for requests. Try to think of a song that uses a word from each plague. 
Have a special quiz after each symbolic part of the seder, asking for a modern meaning for
each thing.  For example, parsley is for spring, renewal.  It can be for birth, new
beginnings, too.  Have each person talk about a new beginning in their lives.  Or, ask for
volunteers to talk about that.  Maror, bitterness of slavery, can also be things that make our lives bitter.  Ask questions around the table - what bitterness would you change from your own life?  The seder is for asking questions! Charoset - a mixture of sweet things that represent mortar.  What holds your life together as the mortar held the bricks? Ask everyone to tell something that keeps them "together."  Yachatz, breaking of the middle matza, is about separating the matza into pieces, one which will be hidden.  What kind of separations happened in our lives in the past year?  Talk about that.  What still remains hidden to us, as the afikoman is hidden?  What do we still search for?  Give the kids prizes for good answers. Incentives always help.  Food is a great incentive, by the way!  So are stickers and little cheap-o toys you can find in the discount store.  Doing these things will add spice to your Seder and make it family friendly.
Begin the seder in the living room.  Recline, let the kids run around a little.  Have the first glass of wine there, and dip the parsley there and also have some veggies.  That really sets the relaxing mood, and makes sitting at the table seem to be a shorter time. Hey, we're free.  We are supposed to recline and relax at Passover time. You may want to begin with something interesting and exciting by having a member of your family begin the seder pretending to be a guest traveler, just freed from Egypt.  Or, a stranger who does not know the story of Passover, and he can ask the kids to tell him
about what to expect from the story.  Dramatics always are a great way to increase the family friendliness of your Seder.
If your Seder goes too long, and after dinner everyone is tired out, consider splitting the Hagaddah in half.  Have a second Seder, and do the bare bones minimum and eat early.  Then, spend some time on the after-dinner portion.  Enjoy the singing, the door opening for Elijah.  Discuss what it would take to save us from our plagues in our lives.
Sing Hallel, and really have a good time!  Use puppets to do Chad Gad Ya.  Assign each child a part in that song.  Have speed contests for "Who Knows One?"  Do it in English and in Hebrew, or whatever your guests can do.
The idea is to get everyone thinking, having fun, and talking about the meaning behind all we do for Passover.  There is so much meaning to be found if you try, that you could go on all night and never get tired of the discoveries.  Good luck, and Chag Sameach!
Foundation For Family Education, Inc.

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Passover Guide

Hosting your first Passover Seder? Not sure what food to serve? Curious to
know more about the holiday? Explore our Passover 101 Guide for answers
to all of your questions.

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