Over the course of two and a half generations, Passover sedars in my family have gone from 40-minute ordeals to drive-thru 10-minute versions and back to what feels like a marathon. For better or for worse my daughter is entering them at their longest phase in family history, and I can’t tell yet if that’s a good or a bad thing, but at least we’re all in it together.
When I was a kid my grandpa Teddy used to lead the sedars, which were so tedious that I would excuse myself and go into the kitchen to “help” my uncle Buddy carve the turkey (a skill that would eventually get me out of many other boring holiday traditions as well). As the youngest, I was always called back in to read the Four Questions, but that was OK because it usually meant the singing of Dayenu was near, and listening to my mom and aunt belt it out to kingdom come off-key is always worth the price of admission and then some.
I only started eating gefilte fish a few years ago, but it was just as much fun when I didn’t eat it to poke at it with a fork and try to imagine what a gefilte looked like when it was swimming, and in what body of what I might encounter one.
My mom’s peach farfel is like a little slice of heaven, and the same goes for my aunt’s kosher-for-Passover stuffing. But the Passover desserts that my grandparents always brought from some Jewish bakery in Riverdale took the cake (pun might have been intended). I never would have guessed anything without flour could actually be edible, but those little chocolate pinwheel delicacies were worth every calorie. When I was in Hebrew school and had to sell Passover candy, I always made sure to also eat my fair share of caramel-filled chocolate frogs (no bread in there, either). Who knew a plague and a dessert could be one in the same?
One year we went to Florida to see my other grandparents for Passover and I remember crawling on the floor with my grandma Nettie to pick up any errant crumbs that were supposed to have been banished for the occasions. My grandpa Moe opened to door for Elijah to come in for his glass of wine and when no one appeared, he polished it off, as he told us Elijah would have wanted him to do.
My dad eventually took over leading the service from my grandpa, and that’s when we super-sized the sedars in the opposite direction. We’d skip from page 2 to 42 in the Haggadah and blaze through it like the house was on fire (again, pun kind of intended). After my sister’s first kid was born 11 years ago, however, my brother-in-law took the reigns of the sedar so that the tradition for the next generation could start off on what he felt was the right foot. At least we have a little more empathy for the suffering of our ancestors at this point.
As I write this, my mom is in the kitchen making the peach farfel, which I’m hoping to sample — with my daughter — before the first sedar tomorrow night. As for what to expect at this year’s sedars besides a very fully belly, I’m assuming the pre-dinner rituals will border on painfully long. But while my daughter is only 2 and change (and my other one is still in utero) and I don’t expect her to know what’s going on as my parents, sister, brother-in-law, nieces, nephew, aunt, cousins and friends read about the plight of the Jews and Egypt, I can only hope that what’s being instilled in her besides that is what is already ingrained in me, which is there is nothing like a holiday with a family, particularly when it’s your own.
Does your family have any unique Passover traditions?