The S.T.U.C.K. Method

Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being

Stuck on I Really Hope You Like My Passover Seder!

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Two weeks ago I participated in a class on the kibbutz on how to successfully lead a Passover seder with children.

The facilitator mentioned a number of possible common struggles that people may face during the seder such as the “struggle” of sitting through the seder (on an empty stomach) and where the focus may be more about getting to the meal than it is about caring about meaning of the evening itself; and the struggle of figuring out ways of keeping family and guests who may not be interested in the seder engaged.

I identified with a lot of these experiences and was inspired by the dozens of suggestions that were suggested to us.

From all the ideas that were shared, I decided to choose 4 to bring to our seder this year. (Seemed like a holiday appropriate number… Plus, I didn’t want to overwhelm the family with too many innovations at one time.)

I chose to:

1) Create a distinct gathering place to read the Hagaddah other than the table in which we would later eat the meal. Not only would our guests be able to recline (literally!), they wouldn’t be sitting at a dinner table staring at their empty plates and anticipating a meal being served for hours on end.

2) Encourage the children (and adults!) to ask questions by offering incentives (one chocolate chip for each question asked) throughout the entire seder.

3) Put out an array of cut vegetables and lots of interesting home-made dips (after the blessing of karpas), in order to help keep those who are “starving” from wanting to rush through the seder just to get to the meal.

4) Create a group scavenger hunt for the children to find the afikomen and offer prizes for all.

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Besides the whole evening, I really wanted these four things to go over well.

I wanted this year to be different.

I wanted this seder to be a success.

I wanted my husband’s family to go along happily with my innovations to their family seder and have the ideas turn into new family traditions for them.

And a few days before the seder, I realized how stuck I was on all of this.

I knew I had to let go so that I wouldn’t be disappointed.

And instead chose a different perspective.

That instead of trying to impress or win over my husband’s family with ideas that I think are fabulous, I should just focus on my own children and know I am doing this for them.

And so, I went into the seder with no expectations from the rest of the family.

However it would go, it would go.

As long as my kids enjoyed and got something out of the evening.

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But, it was (thank, G-d!) a success!

And of course, I’m thrilled out it.

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The top 10 things I learned about this year’s family seder.

IMG-20150330-WA00021) Create a separate place to do the seder (other than the place where we eat).  It offers amazing possibilities.  Not only does it allow people to rest/lounge/recline in an enjoyable way, it creates a sense of intimacy that you just don’t get when you sit at a long table and only have a chance to speak to the person who randomly sits next to or across from you.

Picture 0622) Start at 6 pm.  It’s ideal for this family (who has lots of kids), even though the holiday technically doesn’t start until later. If the guests come early, have the kids make drawings and hang them up on the wall for decoration.

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3) Offer incentives (chocolate chips) for asking questions during the reading of the hagaddah.  It completely engenders people to ask questions (which is one of the points of the seder in the first place).  So, it takes off the need to create a didactic atmosphere, and instead offers possibility for people to be genuine and ask any question related to that evening. Questions asked last night went from the youngest (pointing to the seder plate and asking, “What is this?”), to the 9-year-old who asked “Why didn’t Pharoah let the Children of Israel leave after the first plague?” to one of the adults who questioned some of the choice of words of the ancient text of the haggadah.  At some point, I felt I had to stop the questions so that we could continue the seder, otherwise we would never have finished!!!!

Picture 0634) Put out cut vegetables and dips after the karpas blessing.  It’ll save the night.  First of all, it was unexpected and the guests went wild over the bean dip, the honey/mustard dip, the hummus, the tahini, etc.  Secondly, it kept people from “starving” and wanting to rush through the seder just to get to the meal.

Picture 0695) If we’re going to do #4 next year, and there’s chicken/matzah ball soup for the next course and then gefilte fish for the next, people will get full!!!  And they’re not going to eat much more.  Make half of what you would ordinarily make!

6) The Gura family prefers my Sephardi charoset over my Ashkenazi charoset.

Picture 0667) Definitely create a scavenger hunt for the afikomen.  The kids went wild over it.  They loved the various missions (dressing up as ancient Israelites, building pyramids from blocks), the little kids took turns reading the clues, and finding the afikomen as a group is much more fun (and takes off a lot of stress) than finding it on your own.  And definitely prizes for all. (Note to self: Go to marzipan museum next year for prize ideas.)

Picture 0688) When the meal is concluded and the family returns to the living room to lounge (the natural place to reconvene), continue the seder to the end including all the fun songs!!!!!

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9) Let the kids fall asleep in the “tent” even if the end of the seder is still going on, and let them sleep there for the entire week.  (The kids are off from school anyway, so why not?)

10) Offer to host again next year knowing that if I have even more ideas that I want to implement, it’ll be much easier to do implement them on my own turf than on someone else’s.

Chag Sameach to all!

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Author: Shira Taylor Gura

Well-Being Coach, Podcast Host, Author of the award winning book, Getting unSTUCK: 5 Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being.

3 thoughts on “Stuck on I Really Hope You Like My Passover Seder!

  1. Sounds great! Love your ideas! Maybe we will try to incorporate some of them!

    We had two wonderful seders. The first night we were with the Grossmans and it was wonderful. The kids are all growing up so it was fun to see them all together. There were 46 of us and we really enjoyed! Last night we were at Elyse’s. It was GREAT! She is an amazing cook like you! Her first course was fishcakes (instead of gefilte fish). Then she had chicken soup with regular matzo balls or jalapeno matzo balls. Then brisket, chicken, Brussel sprouts, roasted potatoes cabbage salad with anchovies (yum), potato kugel, kishka, friend onion kugel, sweet kugel and more. She did smores for part of the desserts. It was wonderful being with the Alexander family. So, two great nights of holiday evenings that we really enjoyed.

    We will try to skype soon.

    Love,

    mom

  2. Beautiful! I absolutely love these ideas. Each year my sister-in-law (Adam’s wife) manages to come up with a different game (she’s so creative). This year it was something that my niece had made in Hebrew School with big dice and a board. Depending on what number they landed the kids were asked specific questions. It really was fun for all! Chag Sameach! -Erica

  3. Shira: I enjoyed reading about this Passover seder experience! Here’s a link if you want to read about mine 🙂 https://thatssojacob.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/later-seder/

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