Passover Fun for Everyone
Some people love Passover — the matzo ball soup and brisket, the long evenings with family at the seder table, and the freshly cleaned house. Others (realists like me) have to work a little harder to get over the stress that comes with all that cleaning and cooking. Here are a few ways I've found to make Passover more fun for everyone (and no, it doesn't involve drinking more than four cups of wine at the seder).
Preparing for Passover
Let's face it: preparing for Passover can be stressful. You've got to clean the house top to bottom, scrub the kitchen until it shines, and toss all the leftover bits and pieces of chametz from your pantry. But there's one saving grace that can make this task a bit more fun: EATING ALL THE CANDY.
That's right. Go ahead and start noshing on the candy your son brought home in the goody bag from that birthday party last week. Did you find a half-eaten bag of Twizzlers hiding behind the boxed pasta? It's got to go, so why not into your mouth? While you're at it, eat up the last few hamantashen left over from Purim. And to get your whole family into the Passover mood, share the bounty; I'm sure there's plenty of junk in that pantry of yours (there always is in mine)!
The night before Passover starts, once you're all sick from candy and the house is clean, let the kids go on a chametz hunt (called bedikat chametz). There's nothing for kids like peering behind books on the shelves and under sofa cushions to find the little pieces of bread that you've hidden. (Don't forget to wrap them in a napkin so you don't actually get crumbs all over the freshly cleaned house; that would suck. If you're adventurous, you can burn the chametz yourself in the morning — another fun thing for kids to see. (If not, some synagogues hold a group chametz burning as part of the Fast of the Firstborn service.)
Another thing to keep the kids having fun while you're stuck at the stove is decorating the house. Have them draw pictures of the Passover story or their favorite part of the seder, and stick them up around the house (especially in the dining room, so all the aunts and uncles can shower praise on the artistic skills of your little sweeties at seder later that night).
If that doesn't catch their attention, have them make elaborate place cards. This serves the dual purpose of keeping the kids busy and allowing you to assign seats so you don't get stuck listening to the details of Great-Aunt Gertie's hip replacement surgery all night.
The seder doesn't have to drag! It can be lots of fun for young and old alike, if you take the time to assess your guests' interests.
- If you have lots of kids, it goes without saying that they'll need some encouragement to stay interested (and awake!) for the whole seder. Try a Passover bingo game, or reward a child with a small piece of candy for asking a good, relevant question. (Yes, it's bribery. But just try it, and you'll see how well it works. The kids will be knocking each other down to ask questions!)
- You can let them stir up a little mischief by putting sticky notes into predesignated spots in people's haggadahs, suggesting the participants engage in flash-mob style dancing to accompany some of the more rousing seder songs. That's sure to befuddle your seder leader at first, but it'll get a good laugh.
Ask the Four Questions in 300 Different Languages
Do you know how to say the Four Questions in Japanese?
- For an international group, or people who are interested in language, have each person read the Four Questions in a different language. What? You don't have the Four Questions translated into Gaelic, Zulu, and Klingon in your haggadah? 300 Ways to Ask the Four Questions does! This fantastic book includes just about every language you can think of (and many more that you can't). There is a CD included that allows you to hear some of the more obscure languages spoken.
- If your guests are a varied group, Passover parody songs are always a big hit. Print out some lyrics to a favorite parody and sing it before you start, or include it in the appropriate place in the seder. If your seder attendees are not very observant, you could even cue up a few YouTube videos to illustrate points in the haggadah, or provide a few moments of comic relief. (Just be sure your guests won't be upset by your use of electronics on the holiday! We wouldn't do this in my family, but we have plenty of friends who do.)
During the Week of Passover
Passover is a very long eight days, and can feel like much longer. Here are some things to try to keep you and your family busy having fun (and not obsessing about bread products) during the week.
- Traditional Passover foods are heavy, and can make your digestive system feel like it's weighted with lead. If you like cooking, this is a great time to experiment with kosher for Passover foods. Challenge yourselves to see who can list the most uses for a potato, or learn to make a flourlesss chocolate cake. Involve your kids if they like to cook, or do it with a friend and a bottle of wine if you like a more relaxed atmosphere.
- For kids, have a special outing or two so they don't feel like they're cooped up for a week with nothing to do. When we were kids in New York, an annual trip to the Bronx Zoo was practically the law during the week of Passover. We packed matzah in baggies for lunch, and if we got tired of it, we fed it to the pigeons. They didn't seem to mind it as much as we did. A friend of mine always went to a Mets game with her dad to celebrate the start of baseball season, which usually coincides with Passover. Create a fun tradition for your family.
At the End of Passover
When the end of the holiday finally (finally!) approaches, you may be feeling worn out, stopped up, and crabby. But turn that frown upside down and make a game of packing Passover away! Put on a little music and dance your heart out while you shake the matzo crumbs out of the tablecloths and put the linens in the wash. Rip off your counter liners and slam dunk them in the trash. Need to make half a dozen trips to the basement to put away your dishes? Consider that extra cardio for the day, and reward yourself with a nice, big sandwich when you're all done.