Posted Friday, April 4th, 2014 by & filed under Holidays.

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Carley Knobloch, digital lifestyle expert, shares the history and a few twists on tradition for Passover. Carley is a regular Today Show and CNN contributor and an HGTV host. Through her website, newsletter and her self-produced video show, Digitwirl, she helps people navigate the digital world. Carley resides in Los Angeles with her husband, two kids, springer spaniel, and myriad digital devices. Find her on Twitter at @carleyknobloch.

 

Okay, let’s face it, many Jewish holidays are more solemn and somber than their Easter-bunny-flying-reindeer counterparts, which leaves me with a hefty dose of holiday envy most times of the year.

…and then there’s Passover. I’m excited to share with you the history behind this holiday +  inspiration for traditions that can be applied to any gathering, big or small, religious or secular!

What makes Passover special is the dramatic story, demonstrative customs that accompany each twist and turn, great songs and beautiful visuals. Not to mention the foods served, many of which are steeped in story, tying you to history with every bite. It’s as showy a holiday as we get, so I like to really do it up. And it’s a great holiday to invite non-Jewish friends, since there’s so much to delight the senses.

Passover Traditions | Red Stamp

Yes, it does commemorate liberation from Egyptian slavery, and the name of the holiday itself refers to exemption {or “passing over”} from the death of the first born as punishment for enslavement … not exactly light material. But that’s what’s makes this holiday so remarkable, a holiday meant to remind us of something so dire can be celebrated with such levity, beauty and kid-friendly ceremony. In fact, I think there are lots of lessons in the Passover traditions that make it a great template for any other holiday gathering, or just entertaining friends in general.

Here are some of my favorite themes {and the best part is is that these can be applied to any gathering!}

GET YOUR GUESTS INVOLVED

The Haggadah {Hebrew for “telling”} is a book that walks everyone through the story of Passover, including how-to instructions for each of the evening’s prayers and customs. Typically, each person seated at the table reads a part of the book, which makes it more engaging than if one person droned on and on all night. Did I mention that you have to read most of it before you can eat? Having everyone do their part in the telling is a great way help each person feel invested in what’s going on, which is a great tip for entertaining in general— your guests often want to be a part of it whether it’s the meal prep, setting the table, pouring the wine and so on.  By letting them participate {and releasing some of the control yourself}, the gathering is better for everyone!

Passover Traditions | Red Stamp

TAKE CUES FROM THE SEASON

Passover’s Seder plate is a beautiful {and, to newcomers, odd} assortment of items displayed in the middle of the table for all to see. Each item represents something in the story :: The Charoset {a chopped condiment of apples, wine and nuts} represents the mortar used to lay bricks and the bitter herbs represents the harshness of servitude. And other items, like the egg, mark the arrival of springtime and is a symbol of fertility and new life. If the foods you eat help further a story you want to tell at your gathering, it becomes more than the sum of a few great dishes— it becomes a memorable event that has dimension and evokes emotion, be it happy or sad.

Passover Traditions | Red Stamp

EMBRACE CULINARY CHALLENGES

One friend is vegetarian. Another is doing a juice cleanse. One won’t have dairy or meat and yet another swears by Atkins. Sound familiar? The culinary needs of your guests can throw your menu into upheaval, but often the constraints result in fabulous dishes that become standards in your repertoire. During Passover, leavened bread is replaced with “Matzoh,” the flat crackers which symbolize those eaten by the Jewish people as they fled Egypt in haste without time for their bread to rise. This means that there’s no bread or pasta of any kind at the Passover table, which limits the starches you can serve. But the flourless chocolate cake, matzo-breaded chicken cutlets and matzo-ball soup that result make the meal special, unique and memorable. So the next time a guest’s dietary restrictions seem to throw a wrench in your planned menu, take inspiration from Passover and roll with it.

Passover Traditions | Red Stamp

GET KIDS INTO THE GAME

I have tried, through the years, to cook one meal for everyone {including kids} to eat together, even when the kids were little and pickier. I never wanted to “dumb down” my meal and always tried to give my kids’ palates a little credit. To this day, they’re great eaters, I believe, because I involved them in everything from shopping to meal prep and rarely put them at a “kid’s table” with a “kid’s meal.” Passover takes this to a whole new level, with memorable, kid-friendly songs and customs that commemorate some pretty serious stuff. For example, the dipping of one’s finger in wine for each plague the Egyptians had to suffer before they set the Jewish people free is a list gleefully recited by children with fanciful imagery {Blood! Locusts! Frogs!}. Their involvement in customs like this and the great songs that help tell the story is a reminder that keeping your kids at the grown-up table is a great way to keep them engaged and challenged, both culinarily and intellectually.

Passover Traditions | Red Stamp

We hope you’re inspired! And we’d love to hear, what’s your favorite part of the Passover holiday, or any springtime gathering?

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One Response to “Passover Traditions :: Everyone’s Invited!”

  1. Barbara

    Yes, passover is one of my favorite holidays, yet a sad one too. Growing up with a non-practicing Catholic Mom and Jewish Dad, we were raised in the Jewish faith. We made it a major thing preparing for and celebrating Passover. It was wonderful! MOM EVEN PARTICIPATED!
    Now after being married to a Cotholic Man for 31 years and raising 2 daughters, one who chose to adopt Judaism at the age of 19 or 20 and one who did not; I so miss the Seder. My husband does not share in my traditions. Although I follow the dietary traditions, I have not participated in a Seder in 30 years. Makes me very sad.

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