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Guidelines for Hosting a Passover Seder

In many Jewish families, it’s indeed an honor and privilege to host the Seder dinner for Passover. It’s a special time for those who gather together and the Seder also represents one of the holiest rituals of the year for those who practice Judaism. The dinner is rich with symbolism and children learn much about the faith from participating in this tradition. That is why it’s essential that it be organized properly.

Make a List

Because the Seder is such an important meal, you’ll want to be sure that you purchase everything you need as far in advance as possible and that all is in order long before your first guest walks through the door. Make a concise list of what you need to purchase, including the food for the Seder plate as well as that for the remainder of the meal.

You may also need to look around the house for the other standard non-food items you’ll need, such as serving plates, the Kiddush cup, and copies of the hagaddah (the book that tells the Passover story and sets out the order of the Seder) for each guest at your table.

Consider the Menu

There are many foods that have come to be associated with Passover and you’ll need to decide which ones to include in your dinner. There may be some of those that the whole family loves and others that the kids (or even the adults) might consider rather unappealing. One of those might be gefilte fish, traditionally carp or pike that is de-boned and ground and formed into fish balls. You can buy this in the can or make it yourself if you choose to include it and it’s generally the first course.

Most kids love matzo ball soup, which is also often part of the Passover menu. This delightful soup is warm and comforting and a favorite with all ages. The soup is followed by the main course, which might be delicious beef brisket or perhaps lamb. Go with the choice you think your guests will enjoy most. Honey cake, flourless chocolate cake, or macaroons round off the evening’s meal.

You’ll need to decide which foods to purchase ready-made and which you’ll make on your own. During Passover, many of the aforementioned foods can be purchased at the supermarket or at a local Jewish delicatessen or specialty store.

The key is to choose as many foods as possible that you can make in advance so that you don’t need to spend the entire day in the kitchen before the guests arrive. You’ll want to have as much time as possible to prepare the rest of your home, including cleaning the house and setting the table properly for this special event.

Organize your cooking by listing those things you can do a day or two in advance and make a time chart on the day of the Seder so you remember when to put certain foods in the oven to warm, etc.

Before the day arrives, also make sure you have enough plates and utensils for each course so that there’s no need to wash them between courses.

Seder Participants

Be sure that before your guests arrive you’ve determined exactly which role each person is playing in the Seder dinner. Grandparents or other elders generally lead the prayers and songs but you may opt to ask someone else if a grandparent is not present. Children should be well-versed in what their assignment is for the evening and it’s best to take time to review their Hebrew pronunciation and other particulars before the guests arrive so that the night proceeds as smoothly as possible and that the ritual remains a sacred event.