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What’s it like to suddenly lose your freedom, your wealth and your social life?
When Schitt's Creek first aired in 2015, it was impossible to imagine relating to the predicament of the vain, self-centered Rose family's reversal of fortune. But in 2020, it happened to all of us: we were quarantined, and in our confinement we lost so much, some of us to a heartbreaking degree.
One of the bright spots of quarantine--at least for those of us with Netflix--was settling in to watch (or more likely, rewatch) Schitt's Creek. A family of four living in two adjoining hotel rooms seemed appropriate for our own leashed existence, and many of us discovered an envy of the simple closeness of a small town where everyone knows your name and your business. You may not always like how close everyone is, but at the end of the day, there’s a comfort in it.
In some ways, the story of the Rose family -- Moira, Johnny, David and Alexis -- is the story of Passover. There’s an Exodus from their old life into their new life, a space that they first rebel against and wander through until they realize that -- at least for some of them -- it’s home.
So in addition to the regular serious content that goes with this holiday celebrating freedom, allow us to share with you the Schitt’s Creek HagGIFdah. Or, if you prefer another title, This Haggadah is Schitt.
-- Esther D. Kustanowitz is a writer, editor, consultant and podcast host based in Los Angeles. She speaks about various topics including #TVGoneJewy, a term she created to refer to the increase of Jewish content on television. Esther would like to thank The Bagel Report co-host Erin Ben-Moche and Leah Jones of the Finding Favorites podcast for their input, and to the Haggadot.com team for helping to bring this piece of creativity your way. Find Esther on Twitter: @EstherK @TheBagelReport @TVGoneJewy.
What’s the most important part of the Passover Seder, a dinner where we read the Haggadah and talk about the meaning of Passover, justice and freedom?
That’s right, Moira Rose...SYMBOLISM.
Step One: Make sure you’ve got everything you need for tonight! That means lots of ritual objects, symbolic foods, and a lot of wine (or pressed grape products), because the tradition is to drink four glasses of the grapey goodness.
So how will you make this Seder special? Especially after the 2020 we’ve had and in honor of the fact that this is our SECOND PANDEMIC PASSOVER??
David Rose has a plan that we cannot necessarily endorse, but whose impulse we totally understand.
We totally feel you, David.
Which reminds us, if you love fruit wine, you’ll love wines from “Bitter” Herb Ertlinger, who brings the musk-melon goodness to their oak Chardonnay and the dazzling peach cre-ab-apple to his Riesling Rioja.You’ll remember the taste and you’ll remember the name. Herb Irvling-ger. Burt Herngeif. Irv Herm-linger. Bing Liveheinger. Live Link. Burt Herkern. Burn-. Agh! Bingo Lingf***er. Or whoever else’s wine you need for the Seder.
Got your wine? Great. Let’s get on with the Seder night!
OK, let’s kick things off with Kadesh - lift a glass of wine, and if you finish it, have someone bring you another. That's how this seder thing goes.
Now, let us all thank the forces of the universe who created the magic of turning old grapes into a delightful sedative with hints of oak & berries.
Now it’s time for Urchatz: a chance to wash your hands of your former life, or to clean up after your job at the Blouse Barn or the veterinarian's office - in either case, it’s time for a good hand-washing to get the “EW” off your hands.
Don’t make a blessing, because, well, what’s to bless when you’ve lost all your money and moved to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere or in a pandemic far away from your family?
Karpas is an appetizer… a green leafy vegetable like a radish, a carrot or parsley. If you want to get creative, try a piece of potato, parsnip or other vegetable that at one time had a leaf and could pass for green. Maybe one of Twyla’s famous green smoothies? Just remember, they can be digestively problematic and have not been tested for interactions with unleavened bread.
Moira prefers to drink her Karpas. She's getting notes of to-MAH-to.
Yachatz is when we break the matzah and put half -- called the Afikoman -- away for later, like a special flat treat. In some families, the Seder leader hides the matzah and the kids look for it; in others, the kids hide it and ransom it from the Seder leader. In either case, the kids usually get presents, at least until they’re approaching adulthood. Then they have to find their own Greek shipping magnate named Stavros to give them presents.
But yes, Moira, 'tis a bit of whimsy within the symbolism. Thank you for noticing.
Not more food just yet. We’ll get there. But enjoy your mimosa and leftover Karpas until then...
Maggid: This section is all about learning: hearing the story of the Exodus, of redemption, of appreciating freedom and working to enact justice in the world. In other words, it's a teachable moment for all of us. And more teachable moments ahead...
Great! So do we!! Let’s start with...let's pick a number...let's say...four.
Four "Schitty" Questions: Why is Schitt’s Creek different from all other Creeks?
1. In other creeks, there is a Dawson, but in this one there is a David. Why?
2. On other nights of the year we eat fondue. Tonight we ask, “what does ‘fold in the cheese’ mean?”
3. In social media apps, you sometimes go viral. Should you prepare by stocking up on antibiotics?
4. On some people's desks there are pictures of their friends and family. Who put a picture of a ghost on my desk?
To be fair, this is always Moira's question, no matter what town she's in. You do realize she's a professional vocalist, don't you?
There’s a story in the Haggadah about Four Children who ask questions about their family's preparation for and observance of Passover.
The Wise Child asks what it all means. Stevie is more of a wisecracker, but she's pretty smart and has a curious mind, especially when it comes to figuring out what makes the Roses tick.
The “Wicked” Child -- who is probably not all that wicked but approaches things sarcastically and with less respect and more derision than the Wise Child -- asks, “What does this mean to you?” Or “What are you actually doing?” David's mastery of sarcasm and suspicion of things he doesn't understand makes him our choice for the "wicked" child.
The Simple Child asks a question so simple she just calls it a "Q."
And the Child who doesn’t know what to say, well…we think the befuddled Ted is a good choice to represent this one.
At this stage in the seder, we tell stories about our journeys, and notes how far we’ve come. When it comes to journeys for the Jews of the Exodus era, we definitely prefer the journey OUT of slavery. In fact, we love that journey for us.
And honestly, Alexis should know. She's been kidnapped by and escaped from several foreign countries.
It’s not a barbarous jape, Moira Rose. It’s the Ten Plagues. Which, actually, do seem barbarous. But are certainly not a jape (a practical joke).
So. The Plagues. There’s Blood in the water, Frogs everywhere, Lice (or maybe gnats), Wild Beasts/Swarm, Pestilence, Boils, Hail, Locusts, Darkness and Death of the First Born.
We don’t either. The plagues -- or at least that last one as a final straw -- were the reason that Pharaoh eventually let the Jews leave their Egyptian enslavement, so that’s ultimately good for the Israelites.
However, we’re not happy about the toll these plagues took on the Egyptian people, which is why we spill out some of our wine when we recite the plagues, to show that we recite them with no revelry and are diminishing our celebration out of compassion for Egyptian suffering.
Also, all this talk of plagues is making us nervous during our second Pandemic Pesach, so let’s move on.
Rachtzah - Time to wash again. This just makes sense, we’re about to handle a whole bunch of food with our hands. Pretend you're Johnny Rose filling in at the cafe for Twyla and offering everyone a full combo, even though there's only a combo, which is a cup of soup and half a sandwich. If you want to sing happy birthday or Dayenu (since we forgot to mention that Passover earworm) while you do it, feel free.
In Motzi-Matzah, we say two special blessings over the matzah, one for its roll (ha ha, we meant “role” oh G!d we miss bread and could really go for some regular ‘za but now have to deal with matZAh instead) as the bread for our meal, and the second just because it’s matzah and it's so special to be eating it that it gets its own blessing.
You could even interpret this as showing that matzahs and people can be more than one thing. You know, how you might see a family who lost their fortune and they start off really privileged and selfish but then eventually make room for new people and experiences that change their lives for the better. For example.
If you’re bitter, you’ll love Maror. It refers to the Bitter Herb (Ertlinger), often horseradish of the sliced, chopped or grated variety, but sometimes romaine lettuce. Its flavor can run from mild to five-alarm-fire, and it's meant to remind us of the bitterness of oppression.
That’s actually its normal, David. You can say "ew," if you want. But you still have to eat some because of symbolism.
With Koreich we make a ceremonial sandwich in honor of a legendary sandwich assembled during Talmudic times. At least Jewish people come by our food-centric customs honestly.
We know, Johnny. Pizza is basically the greatest sandwich combo, but that’s not what Koreich is. First of all, we use matzah, because, hello, it’s a seder. OK?
Secondly, we use maror, because we enjoy pain. Oops, I mean, we are supposed to symbolically remember our ancestors’ pain in Egypt. There’s also charoset, a sweet chutney-ish side dish made from some of the following: apples, wine, raisins, dates, nuts and various other things; the recipe kind of depends on where you’re from. But basically, people put charoset on their maror and often in the Korech sandwich, which helps with the bite. It’s not pizza, but it’s something.
You’re finally there! It's Shulchan Orech, the part where everyone gets to eat and is so hungry that they can’t make any food decisions. We like David's approach, even if he looks a little like a disgruntled pelican. Make a plate for us too...we'll be back to the seder in a bit.
After we’ve eaten everything in sight, we remember the Afikoman and decide that should be dessert, the last thing of the night we consume. It’s like we’re making a matzah sandwich...in our gastrointestinal systems. It’s called Tzafun, because it’s matza fun.
Kidding - it means “the hidden thing.” Because the fun of matzah for dessert is hidden. Kidding again - it’s because we hid that piece of matzah like an hour or two ago.
Barech - This is the grace after meals, which is about gratitude for the food that was provided for the meal. There are not so many moments of gratitude expressed in Schitt's Creek, the place or the TV show. But in our own lives, it's good to take a moment for gratitude. Plus, gratitude practices are very on-trend.
Hallel - Sing songs praising God if that's your thing. Or Mariah Carey.
Or if you are Alexis, you probably praise yourself:
When I'm at a Seder
I am looking fine
Get a little bit tipsy
when I drink my wine
I'm expensive matzah
That you bought online
I'm a little bit drunker
'cause of all this wine
I'm a little bit/I'm a little bit/I'm a little bit/I'm a little bit/La la la la la la la/A little bit o'Seder”
Or just focus your praise on Tina Turner - she's simply the best.
Speaking of Tina, since it’s Nirtzah, let’s say so long to the Seder, to the chorus of Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best”
This seder’s the best
Better than all the rest
Better than 2020 was
Anyone would be better than that…
Next year we’ll be free
We’ll be who we waaant to be
Together with family and friends
Now it’s time for this seder’s end.
NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM!
OR at least somewhere we can gather with the locals for selfies and be a little bit more ourselves than we’ve been able to be during this pandemic.
Us too, Moira Rose. We're proud of our families, wherever they are, and however we define the term.
And thank you to the Schitt’s Creek gang for providing us with something to make us smile, laugh and happy-cry during a year when all of those things were all desperately needed.
And now, Eugene Levy as Johnny Rose (possibly as Tevye?) dancing. Not because it's part of the seder, but because it's fun.
And you all, who are reading this? You're simply the best. :)