Now that we’re all experiencing a second round of Jewish holidays during the pandemic, I think it’s pretty fair to say that lot of us are not feeling Passover this year. At least, I know I’m not.
Last year — when terms like “social distancing” were new and socializing via Zoom was still a novelty — I managed to muster enthusiasm for it. With our world turned upside down, I wanted to find a way to make Passover special — and in a way, it was special, to just be there with the three of us (my husband, my son, and me) and have a meal, read the haggadah, and enjoy each other’s company.
But being isolated, with only your immediate family on Passover, is also really hard. The memories of last year’s lonely Passover, plus the fatigue of enduring more than 12 months of a deadly pandemic, is really getting to me. I’m sure that a lot of other parents can relate.
True, we can “cancel” Passover this year, or chose to skip out on a seder and/or cleaning our house of leavened products. It’s a choice some parents, like Jamie Beth Cohen, are choosing to make, and it is a valid one.
But… What if we don’t want to give up on Passover? What if your kids, like mine, love Passover too much to pass it up? What if you need some way to connect with your family, to tell the Passover story, and to celebrate, despite or even because of the stresses of the past year? What if canceling Passover is just not an option that’s aligned with the way you and your family practice Judaism?
Well, then you make Passover happen, of course! But let’s be clear: Keeping and honoring Passover is one thing, yes, but nowhere in the Torah or haggadah or anywhere in Jewish law does it say you have to serve brisket and chicken, or five full courses (including three homemade desserts) at the seder’s festive meal. You can also make it easier for yourself.
I’ve assembled this compilation of helpful tips, resources, hacks, and tricks to help make this Passover more manageable for myself — and for all of us — mining years of wonderful content on Kveller. Everything you need to practice Passover is here in one easy to scroll through down. I hope you find it helpful!
First, let’s talk cleaning:
Let’s face it, Passover cleaning is the most dreaded part of the holiday for resident adults. Honestly, if it’s an option that works for you, give yourself permission to skip cleaning this year. Or do the bare minimum: only clean the kitchen and dining area.
But if you do want to or need to get into it, our friends at My Jewish Learning have some excellent tips that will help you go easy on yourself, like focusing on the kitchen; not worrying about teeny-tiny crumbs or inedible hametz; taping up all your hametz in a single box or cupboard; and make nullification (yep, it’s a thing!) your friend.
Let your kids be a part of the cleaning, if you can — you can give them an area of the house to focus on, make them clean for fun Passover rewards, or make cleaning into a family game. Make bedikat hametz (the ritual final search for leaven) fun, and perhaps even give your kids a last, delicious hametz treat before you finish.
Tell the Passover story in a simple way to your kids:
Traditionally, we read the haggadah to retell the Passover story (in fact, the Kveller Haggadah is a family-friendly option that’s available for purchase and download). But for many kids, the story can get a little lost in all that singing and eating and Hebrew speaking.
So we’ve got a family-friendly version of the Passover story for kids for you, as well as a short explainer! Or this fun explainer video from none other than Mayim Bialik. We’ve also curated the best Passover videos to teach your kids about the holiday.
You can also make Passover night into movie night — yes, it’s not traditional, but these five movies retell the Passover story in such an enjoyable way.
Focus on what makes Passover meaningful to you:
Before you start, think about the four or five things that really make Passover for your family and focus on those. It could be a certain dish that your entire extended family can make, even if you are not celebrating together in person. It could be a certain song that you just have to sing together. Make those the center of your seder.
If you feel like you don’t want to do the full seder, focus on the parts of the haggadah that your family enjoys. It could just be a few songs and one or two readings.
Be Zen about a Zoom seder:
We had an amazing session with Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder which was all about ways to make running a Zoom seder fun and easy — really! Read the highlights of the webinar and watch the video here.
Or skip Zoom entirely:
Let’s face it, after more than a year of near-constant Zooming, some of us just can’t. Maybe a full Zoom seder is not really in the books for us this year. Instead, take this opportunity to connect with your immediate family during your seder. You can always schedule a short singing session or a happy hour during or after the seder with the extended gang.
Add music and fun!
We’ve created a fun Passover playlist just for you, as well as some cheesy Zoom backgrounds to use for inspiration.
How to learn the Four Questions:
For so many of us, the Four Questions — asked by the youngest attendant — are an indispensable part of the Passover seder.
As for advice for Zoom singing, which is always tricky, the best thing is to assign each reply of the song to just one adult in advance. Also, if you want to include more than one kid, you can divide the Four Questions between multiple kids — it’s more manageable and communal.
What haggadah should I use?
Um, you should use the Kveller Haggadah of course! OK, we are sort of kidding: You should use whatever haggadah works best for your family, though the Kveller haggadah is available for purchase in print and for free as a download here. There are also other great options on PJ Library and haggadot.com. You can even make your own haggadah or have one of your kids make a funny one as a family project.
What to do with the afikomen:
Let’s face it, the afikomen is the part of the seder that most kids love the most, and one of those traditions that you just don’t want to forego if you have young ones. But if you’re out of ideas of where to hide it this year, here are the best spots to hide the afikomen.
You can also spice your afikomen hunt up! Try an online afikomen hunt — our friends at Alma have an amazing guide for that. If you’re having a Zoom seder with other members of your family around the country/globe, you can coordinate hiding the afikomen in the same place in your homes, and have the adults give a series of hints that the kids can try to put together.
Another way to get your kids even more excited about the afikomen hunt is to have them add their own special touch to it. Make your own afikomen bag thanks to this handy craft from Lisa Dvorin for Kveller:
What do we eat?
The Nosher has a Passover menu that you can literally make in one (!!!) hour.
Some other ways to make your seder easier: You can center your meal around two or three dishes — whatever makes sense for the size of your family. For example, you can have a Passover salad and DIY matzah pizza bar. Or, if matzah ball soup is a family favorite, make that the main dish of the meal! These easy child-friendly recipes are perfect for the seder and the entire holiday.
You can even order in, or purchase prepared food, for some of or all of your meals, depending on your level of observance and what is accessible to you. Some families I know are even taking their Passover meals out to restaurants this year, in places where it feels safe to do so, and where you can do so outdoors.
Be a minimalist:
Hey, doing the bare minimum this year is still a lot. There are so many ways to make the seder less overwhelming. First of all, cook less. If you’re only making haroset for your fam — one apple or a handful of dates, depending on your family tradition, will suffice. Cook one main dish and one or two sides. A coconut macaroon sundae (vanilla ice cream, crumbled up coconut macaroons, and a kosher for Passover chocolate drizzle) might be enough for dessert.
How to make it fun and special:
If you’re bummed about Passover this year, shake things up and try some new traditions! You can bake your own matzah — it’s so easy, fast, and fun. Add new unique and symbolic items to your seder plate, or make your seder more feminist by adding rituals that honor the women of the Exodus story.
Try one of these 10 ways to make the seder more fun — including creating a make-your-own haroset bar. You can also make the seder a pajama party, or create a Passover-themed bingo game or a family trivia game.
Use each one of these eight fun family activities to make each night of Passover more delightful than the other.
Ways to celebrate post-seder:
If, for whatever reason, you’re not hosting or attending a seder this year, don’t forget that the holiday lasts eight days, and you can commemorate it when and as you see fit (if that approach works for you). You can these fun and easy Passover crafts, or to make one of these kid-friendly Passover recipes together.
Don’t forget to be kind to yourself.
Due to circumstances beyond our control, this year will not be perfect. Be compassionate with yourself, and do what you can. Whatever you do — you have our full support. Here’s to next year in person!
Illustrations by Lior Zaltzman