The Jewish holiday of Passover (also known as Pesach in Hebrew) celebrates the Biblical story of the Exodus, in which Moses frees the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. It is customary to hold a seder (which means order) on the first 2 nights of Passover. A seder is a festive meal in which the haggadah (story of the Exodus and prayers related to Passover) is recited in a set order. During Passover, Jewish people cannot eat leavened products such as bread or pasta. This tradition is based on the fact that the Jewish people had to leave Egypt in haste and did not have enough time for their bread to rise. Instead, they ate matzah, which is a flat unleavened bread. This year, Passover begins on Monday, April 10 and ends Tuesday evening, April 18. The two seder nights are Monday, April 10 and Tuesday, April 11.
Passover is my family’s favorite holiday, and here are some of the ways we have created special customs and traditions through the years.
1. Hold a Chocolate Seder before Passover to get your kids familiar with the order and prayers of the seder. The seder plate is filled with chocolate variations of the usual items (eg, a chocolate drumstick ice cream replaces a shank bone and a chocolate egg replaces a hard-boiled egg). And instead of 4 cups of wine or grape juice, you drink 4 cups of chocolate milk!
2. Design special crafts to use on Passover such as a jeweled seder plate, colored tissue paper Elijah’s cup, or a felt matzah bag. Each year, I bring out all the Passover crafts that my kids made back in nursery school and put them all over the dining room. The picture of my kids dressed in biblical clothes and headpieces always makes me smile! Check Pinterest for lots of Passover craft ideas.
3. Go on a special Pre-Passover shopping trip. Make a list of all the products you need for your special recipes, and have your kids do a shopping scavenger hunt around the supermarket.
4. Roll up some matzah balls. One of the first foods all my kids ate were matzah balls. And they love making them with me, getting their hands dirty, and rolling up the matzah balls and throwing them into the soup. Sssh, I actually like the matzah balls made from a mix better than the homemade ones, and I just throw them into boxed chicken soup broth and add some round carrots to the soup. Or you can click here for a fun and almost no-mess recipe for matzah balls in a bag!
5. Make some easy and delicious Passover desserts such as matzah chocolate toffee candy or a macaroon trifle (see recipes below). We go crazy making matzah candy and use all kinds of different baking chips (milk chocolate, toffee, peanut butter, dark chocolate, white chocolate). Then we paint on the chocolates, mix them up, and cover them with colored sprinkles, nonpareils, nuts, candy, etc. They are truly a work of art and totally addictive!
6. Create your own hagaddah (book that tells the story of Passover and the order of the seder) at www.haggadot.com or purchase a special themed Hagaddah. Or you can print out or copy different pages of your favorite hagaddahs, mix and match them, add some family pics from Passovers, and have them copied and laminated at Staples.
7. Enjoy Seder Fun:
- Set the table up with your children’s craft projects from past years. You can even make special name tags and assign each person to be a different character in the Passover story (slave, Moses, Miriam, Pharoah, etc).
- Act out the story of Exodus. Take turns reading the story of Passover and give everyone different characters to play. My son used to dress up in a bed sheet and grab a stick from outside to play Moses. As he got older, he started reading the story with a Yiddish accent and was the highlight of the seder. My daughter would bring her baby doll in a basket to be Baby Moses, and my dad wore a Pharaoh’s headpiece that we bought on Amazon.
- Create a special “Four Questions” singalong complete with hand gestures, claps, and banging on the table. We do it to the “David Melech” hand motions that we all learned at camp as a kid. While it is customary for the youngest child to recite the “Four Questions” of Passover, we all sing along together to the chorus part.
- Go Ten Plagues crazy. Our favorite part of the Passover story is when we recite each of the 10 plagues and spill a drop of grape juice or wine for each one. We also have special funny masks and finger puppets that everyone wears for each plague. In addition, we make 10 plague prop bags, and one year, we threw ping pong balls for hail. Our favorite plague is frogs, and we have plastic frogs that fly when you snap down on them and chocolate frogs to eat. Another favorite thing is to make edible 10 plagues. Who doesn’t love to eat chocolate nonpareils and pretend that they are lice?
- Passover Trivia and games. Create a list of questions about the Passover story and customs, and ask them during the seder. Buy a bunch of fun gifts from the dollar store and throw them to the kids when they answer a question correctly. Or play Seder bingo with chocolate chips or raisins. Click here for lots of fun Passover seder games and creative ideas.
- Sing-a-long: At the end of the seder, we always end with everyone’s favorite song, Dayenu. For even more Dayenu madness, you can vary the choruses (eg, only women singing, shouting, whispering, with a funny accent). Following our meal, we also have a crazy sing-along with Passover parodies sung to our favorite songs (see below).
- Recreate the splitting of the red sea. Hang blue streamers or a blue mylar curtain with a sign that says “You are now leaving Egypt.” You can even do a Red Sea experiment using red food coloring water, pepper, and dish soap. Or set the table with the Red Sea in the middle by using blue table runner topped with your kids’ lego people or character figurines.
- Hide the Afikomen. It is customary to take a piece of matzah, put it in a bag or napkin, and then hide it for kids to search for it after the seder. Each kid usually gets a gift or money at the end. You can also give out fun little flashlights to search or even make up 10 plague cards and hide them around the house too.
8. Why should all the fun be limited to the first 2 night seders? Have a Matzah Pizza & S’mores Movie Night in the middle of Passover. To make matzah pizza, just add tomato sauce, cheese, and your favorite veggie toppings on top of matzah, and throw it in the oven or microwave. To make matzah s’mores, just add chocolate and marshmallows on top of matzah and put it in the microwave. Add a fun sing-along (see songs below) and watch Passover movies like Prince of Egypt, The classic Ten Commandments movie with Charlton Heston, or Rugrats Passover.
9. Hold a Matzah Brei breakfast (see recipes below). Every year, our synagogue has a breakfast with several types of different matzah brei (which is scrambled eggs and broken matzah that can can be made savory with vegetables and cheese or sweet with apples and cinnamon). You can have a matzah brei breakfast at home and do a buffet with several different toppings (maple syrup, powdered sugar) or even have a potluck matzah brei breakfast where everyone brings their favorite matzah brei, and you do a tasting contest. Add some of the fun Passover games listed here, and you have yourself a party!
10. Do a Mitzvah (good deed) and give Tzedakkah (charity) for Passover-related organizations. On your Pre-Passover shopping trip, pick up an extra box of matzah, macaroons, or a Passover baking mixes to donate to local food banks. You can also send Passover food packages and personal notes to Israeli soldiers by clicking here.
Matzah Chocolate Toffee Candy
1/2 lb matzah
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
8 ounces chocolate chips
1. Line a cookie sheet with foil and lay matzah on pan.
2. Melt brown sugar with butter in saucepan; boil until mixture coats a spoon.
3. Brush matzah with brown sugar mixture.
4. Bake in 350 degree oven for 3-4 minutes (watch closely-it burns easily!!!) until it starts to bubble.
5. Cover with chocolate chips and put back in the oven until the chips start to melt.
6. Spread the chocolate to cover the matzah. Optional: Sprinkle with nuts, sprinkles, candy, etc.
7. Refrigerate chocolate-covered matzah until hard, then break into pieces.
Container of macaroons (Chocolate chip or Rocky Road flavor work best!)
Cool Whip or other nondairy whipped topping
Berries (blueberries and strawberries work best)
In a tall bowl or trifle bowl, alternate between the following layers:
Layer 1: Macaroons (break them up into tiny pieces)
Layer 2: Whipped topping
Layer 3: Berries and bananas
Add ingredients and spices of choice: savory—veggies and cheese; sweet—apples and cinnamon
1. Take the matzo and break into small pieces into a bowl. Cover with hot water for a minute. Then squeeze out the water.
2. In a small bowl, beat one egg with salt and pepper to taste and add to matzo. Mix well.
3. Heat frying pan with a little oil. Pour mixture into the pan. Brown one side and turn over.
"Take Us Out of Egypt" (Tune of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game")
Take us all out of Egypt
Free us from Slavery
Bake us some matzah in a haste
Don't worry about flavor--
Give no thought to taste.
Oh, it's rush, rush, rush to the Red Sea
If we don't cross, it's a shame
For it's ten plagues,
Down and you're out
At the Pesach history game!
"Crunch Goes the Matzah" (Tune of "Pop Goes the Weasel")
There is a food, I love to munch
When Passover comes around.
When I bite it, it goes CRUNCH!
That's the matzah sound.
"Moses" (Tune of "The Flintstones")
Moses, he's our Moses, he's the guy that all the Jews adore
Moses, he's our Moses, he's the guy who made us slaves no more.
Grew up Egyptian, till he heard the news.
Then our guy went on to save the Jews.
Moses, he's our Moses, he's a really, really good guy.
A really good guy, who made us slaves no more!
“Pharaoh, Pharaoh” (Tune of "Louie, Louie")
Oh Baby! Let my people go! Huh!
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
Singin' Pharaoh, Pharaoh
Oh baby! Let my people go! Huh!
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!
“Matzah Man” (Tune of "Macho Man")
Matzah, wanna eat some matzah, Matzah, wanna eat some matzah,
Hey, hey, oy, oy, vey!
Matzah, Matzah man, I want to be a Matzah Man
Matzah, Matzah man, I want to eat a matzah
Matzah, Matzah man, I want to be a Matzah Man
Matzah, Matzah man, I want to eat a matzah