Passover is upon us and this year we’re actually (mostly) prepared for a quarantined Seder. While 2020’s Passover season was somewhat akin to a train wreck as the entire world collapsed around us, this year we have had an entire year to practice and prepare for the online version of our event. And while restrictions are slowly lifting across the world, we are still maintaining a focus on our online events.
Our 2021 Passover Seder will take place both in person and online. If you are attending from home, then this post has a brief guide on what you will want to have in your home so you can properly follow along. Of course you don’t need anything to follow along. But the Passover Seder is a team sport and to get the best experience you should have all the elements we’ll be working with during our online Seder.
Physical Items for the Passover Seder
Starting off our list are the physical items you need in order to properly follow along. For those who don’t own an entire Passover set in their own home, you can use standard household alternative items in order to follow along.
- The Seder Plate – The Seder Plate is often a beautifully designed dish that contains small “buckets” where you place each significant food item that you will use during the course of your meal. There are dozens of Seder plates available for order from major retailers or by going down to your local JCC. But a standard plate will do just fine in a pinch. If you have small bowls you can also use them on top of a normal plate as well.
- Candle Sticks + Shabbat Candles – Traditionally in Jewish households, candles are allowed to burn down completely. This is a difficult thing to do when you have a candle that is designed to burn for 36 hours. So Jewish homes often purchase special Shabbat candles from the Jewish section in their local grocery store. These candles are designed to burn down much faster than normal candles. If you choose to participate in the candle lighting ceremony along with us online, then you will want some candles that can burn down relatively quickly and accompanying candle sticks to join them.
- Haggadot – Most Passover Seders carry a Haggadah. This is a small book that contains the written “how-to” for a seder. There are dozens of them available online and in stores. However, if you are going to attend our online event, then we will have an electronic Haggadah available on the stream so you won’t need to bring anything special.
- Pillows!! – Why is this night different from all other nights? Because on this night we recline. Most of the time when attending community seders there isn’t room for pillows and reclining. However, if you are attending from home, then you most certainly can make yourself very comfortable! In fact, we’d love if you’d share a picture of your luxurious accommodations from your home with us!
- A Matzos Holder – During the course of a Seder you’re going to eat a lot of Matzos. However, there are three sheets that are special and distinct from the rest of the box of Matzos. Many families have a special bag that holds all three sheets of matzos and keeps them distinct from each other. If you don’t have such an item then you could use some cloth napkins to wrap the matzos.
- Kiddush Cup – The Passover Seder includes drinking several cups of wine. While most Jewish families use a grape wine from Manischewitz any wine will do. If you prefer to remain non-alcoholic then sparkling cider is a fantastic alternative. Or simple grape juice also will work. However, most wine is drank from a special cup called the Kiddush cup. If you don’t have a Kiddush cup available for all members of the family, then wine glasses will also suffice.
- A Place Setting for Elijah – It is said that Elijah will return during the Passover so Jewish families have traditionally set a place for Elijah during their Passover meal. In fact, during the Passover, there is a point where a member of the Seder goes to the front door and calls out “Eliyahu Eliyahu!” To see if Elijah is waiting to enter and join in the Passover feast.
- Your Finest Place Settings – The Seder is not just another meal. This is an event and it is often best to use your finest china that you have available. Of course make sure you use what is appropriate for your family. Don’t want your kids breaking Grandma’s priceless dishes! But given the option, you will want to opt for the best place settings available.
Food for the Passover Seder
The Seder requires several food items for the ceremony. While most are eaten at one point or another, some foods are simply representative. Below is a list of the food items you will want present on your Seder table while attending our online event. Many of these are easy to make or find, especially during this time of year. The Jewish section in your Grocery store will likely carry most everything that you need.
- Matzo – Mentioned earlier, Matzos is a traditional “cracker-like” food that is made in sheets. It is bread made without leavening to represent the speed in which the Jewish people had to escape from Egypt when they were told to go by Pharaoh. In order for Matzo to be considered “Kosher for Passover” it has to be baked from raw ingredients to a finished product in under 18 minutes. You will find it available in the Jewish food section (often in the International foods aisle) in your grocery store. You can purchase regular Matzos, but there are also several other flavors available. Egg Matzos is a particular favorite of ours.
- Wine / Grape Juice – Manischewitz grape wine is a staple in many Jewish households during the Passover. However, any wine of choice will do just fine. Non-alcoholic alternatives include grape juice or sparkling cider.
- Parsley (Karpas) – Parsley is used during the Seder as a form of brush. You need fresh parsley (some use celery). It is usually found in the vegetable section in your grocery store with the fresh spices such as basil.
- Horseradish (Maror) – Some like it, many don’t. Horseradish is a powerful substance best had in moderation. “It’ll clean your sinuses out” is usually the description of its knife-like flavor. However, Horseradish plays a significant part in the Passover seder, so it is best to have on hand. You will usually find it near the pickles and sour krout in a refrigerated section in your grocery store. Sometimes you will also find it in the condiments aisle in your store. Don’t confuse “Horse radish sauce”, a condiment for sandwiches, with actual ground horse radish in a jar. Some years the horseradish is spicier than other years, so be careful when you first taste it to not over do it or you will truly experience the tears of our ancestors.
- Shank Bone – The shank bone is representative of the sacrifices that used to be done on the Passover event. While most families can acquire a Shank Bone by asking the deli section in their grocery store or local butcher, some have started to use a chicken bone in its place. If you cannot find a bone to use, then you can probably skip this and we’ll use the one online at the Seder event.
- Charoset – Charoset is a sweet mixture of apples and nuts. Before the Passover you may be able to purchase Charoset at your local grocery store, however many families choose to make it themselves. There are many recipes available online, but most of them will contain Apples, Walnuts, red wine/grape juice, and raisins. The Charoset helps us to remember the mortar that was used by the Jews when they were slaves in Egypt.
- A Hard Boiled Egg – While the role of the egg is minimal in most Seders it is a classic stable on the Seder plate. The egg is often roasted and used on the seder plate. A hard boiled egg could be used as well. Since we won’t be doing much interactive with the egg online, if you don’t have one available this is optional.
- Salt Water – A small bowl of salt water is needed for the Seder as well. This is used in conjunction with the Parsley. It represents the tears of the Jewish people throughout their enslavement.
- A Meal to eat during the Seder – A big part of Passover is about removing leavening from our lives. This limits options when it comes to eating food on the Passover since most bread and breading includes some form of leavening. But there are plenty of options available. Most people eat some sort of meat for Passover. Chicken, Beef, and Fish are all fantastic options. Potatoes or green beans makes for a great side dish. Of course you can choose a restaurant as well. Just avoid bread, pork, shellfish, and other unkosher foods during the Passover Seder.
Other Items for the Passover Seder
We’re getting close to the end of our list here. There are a few things remaining that you will like for your Seder experience.
- A prize for finding the Afikomen – The Afikomen is half of the middle sheet of Matzos included in your Matzo bag we mentioned earlier on this list. During the course of the Seder the Afikomen is hidden and then the children are dispatched to find the Afikomen. When it is found the child then “sells it back” to the leader of the Seder. Usually money is exchanged. When we were kids this was often a quarter or a dollar. These days kids are asking higher prices like $5 or $10. Whatever the cost, the Afikomen needs to be bought back and made whole with the rest of the Matzos so come prepared!
- Items to keep younger children engaged – The seder is not the shortest event in the world and often younger minds can wander. Coloring, small toys that represent the 10 plagues, and these days even tablets might work to keep younger attendees from ruining the experience for you. It is always a good idea to be prepared!