The Passover holiday celebrates the triumph of the Israelites when Moses led them out of slavery in Egypt. On the first night of Passover, the celebration takes the form of a special dinner, called a Seder, which follows a certain order; each step is part of the ritual of remembering that miraculous time. Although hosting a Passover Seder takes a great deal of preparation, in many extended families, many hands join together to prepare and then to celebrate together.
How to Host a Passover Seder
Plan the menu to suit your family’s taste. Typical Passover meals include gefilte fish (which is usually purchased in a jar rather than made at home), matzoh ball soup, lamb or brisket, a green vegetable such as asparagus because of its availability in the spring, tzimmes–which is a kind of stewed fruit, and a dessert such as macaroons, which can be made or bought in a can from many supermarkets during the Passover season. Flourless chocolate cakes or honey cakes with strawberries are also popular dessert choices.
Decide which menu items you will buy, which you will make and which items others will contribute. Make as many items ahead of time as possible. Many of the traditional foods, such as the fish, soup, stewed fruit and desserts can be frozen. Make sure that adequate plates and flatware are available for serving the fish course, the soup course, the main meal and the dessert.
Prepare the Passover table. A Seder plate is the focal point of the table; on it place a hardboiled egg, bitter herbs (usually horseradish), choroset (a mixture of chopped apples, nuts and wine), a shankbone (usually lamb) and parsley. Near the Seder plate place small bowls of salted water. Each of these items is representative of part of the Passover story. Also place the following items on the table: an extra bowl of charoset, a special cup for the leader of the Seder–called a Kiddush cup–and an extra wine glass that is known as Elijah’s cup, and enough bottled wine for four cups for each guest, candle holders with white candles and matches. Wrap three pieces of matzoh in a cloth napkin and place them on the table. Set a hagaddah, the book that sets out the order of the Seder and tells the Passover story, at each guest’s place.
Prepare the Seder participants. Offer the honor of leading the Seder to a grandparent first, but anyone who wishes to take on the task should review the order of the Seder, the prayers, and the songs. Prepare children for their part in the ritual. The youngest child who can read is traditionally assigned the task of memorizing and reciting (in Hebrew, if possible) the four questions which are asked about the holiday.
Serve the meal near the end of the Seder; the order in the hagaddah indicates the appropriate point. The fish is usually served first, followed by the soup, which is served just before the main dish and side dishes. The dessert is eaten immediately after the meal as nothing is to be eaten after the conclusion of the Seder.