If you’re “making a seder” this year (translation: creating a hugely elaborate meal, educational and entertainment experience for family members, frenemies and friends), I’m here to help you through it.
This year will be my third seder hosting gig. Last year, my seder was 40 people. I was also pregnant and had a 9-month-old, plus two other kids. I am not someone who has “got it together” on the domestic front like Martha Stewart. I have even, on occasion, been called “disorganized” and “slovenly.” So if I can do it, so can you.
The first thing to do is breathe. YOU CAN DO THIS! It’s not rocket science. It’s more like air traffic control, where the key is in the coordination and the planning.
We are three weeks away from the first seder (okay, a little less, but why should I get you nervous?), and I’m going to take you through step by step what you should be doing now. Don’t worry: I’ve got your hand. You too will leave Egypt. Please add your tips in the comments also.
THREE WEEKS BEFORE THE SEDER
1. Send out the invites/make the phone calls/get the RSVPs.
This is the time to figure out how many people will be at your seder. Trust me. It’s all very well and good for the people who aren’t hosting to “not be sure about their plans,” but since you’re the one staging this elaborate extravaganza, you need to figure out who you’re inviting, invite them, and find out if they’re coming this week. You will need the time to plan everything from seating to”parts” (more on that later) to the menu. This is also the time to resolve all the gratuitous conflicts, like “I’m not coming if Uncle Steve is coming.”
2. Start setting the stage, in your head if not in reality.
Once you look at your guest list (and if you are me, think, “Holy crap, why are there so many people on this list?”), you will need to figure out your seating plan. If you’re going to be moving furniture around, plan that out now. If you’re going to need to borrow extra tables or chairs from friends or family, figure that out now. Also, if you don’t have enough haggadot, order them now to make sure they will come in time. It’s hard enough to keep everyone’s attention at the seder generally–sharing haggadot is not such a great idea. Figure out what you’re going to give for afikomen presents and get those together now.
Hot tip: the people who are coming to your house will expect food. You need to figure out how you are going to handle this situation, since take out is not an option. You can either assign guests something to bring and go potluck seder, or you can plan out your own menu. Great Passover food ideas are to be found in many cookbooks–some of my favorites are Susie Fishbein’s and Joan Nathan’s. There are also plenty of recipes to be found right here on Kveller.
Personally, I go as close to take out as I can by ordering food, because I do not kosher my kitchen for Passover until way too close for comfort. I know myself and know that I cannot embark upon a cooking spree for 40 people at the last minute. But even if you are ordering from someone, now is the time to get the menu, to plan out what you will need, and place the order.
Whatever you do, plan for two people more than you’re going to have at the seder. Extra guests at the last minute can occasionally materialize. You know, like Elijah. And leftovers are pretty good to have around, too.
Also, order alcohol now, and it wouldn’t hurt to pick up some grape juice either for the wee ones (I recommend white grape juice). Perhaps even more so than food, you can never have too much (I interpret “four cups” liberally).
4. Four Questions
Now is the time to start working on the four questions with your little kid. And by working I mean “like a drill sergeant.” Just kidding (kind of). I strongly recommend downloading the catchy melody on iTunes and playing it in the car, in the kitchen, everywhere. Because even if your kid doesn’t get the whole thing or anywhere close to it (though miracles can happen: I once went to my sister’s seder and her 2-year-old did the entire thing. It was the most incredible thing I had ever seen), that first line is a real crowd-pleaser.
5. Get The Kids Involved
This part depends on the ages of your kids, but I’d start planning ways for them to be engaged in the seder. I’ll have more ideas for different ages later, but flip through the haggadah and ask yourself: which part of the seder do you want to invest with more meaning, or fun? Which part of the Passover story does your kid really like? Try to figure out ways that your kid can lead part of the seder. Comic relief is always a good thing. You’re going to need it.
Stay tuned for more seder tips from Jordana in the weeks leading up to Passover.