Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Sara and Melissa Talk About...Spring Holidays

We've been running a column series (for over two years now!) to get more personal with our readers. In the past, we talked about winter holiday traditions. Now it's time to talk about spring holiday traditions!

We're always open to topic suggestions, so please don't hesitate to share those in the comments. We'd also love to know if you can relate to anything we've said or hear your own thoughts on the topic. So don't be shy. :) We look forward to getting to know you as much as we're letting you get to know us. You can find our previous columns here, in case you missed them.

Melissa Amster:                                                                                     
Passover starts this Friday at sundown. In honor of the upcoming holiday, I wanted to talk about what Seders are like in my family. Seder means "order." There's a specific order to everything that happens during the Seder and I'm going to explain more about some of these steps. (Please forgive any spelling errors.) Before moving on, I wanted to share this post I wrote about different foods we eat on Passover and the meaning behind them.

Kadesh: The kiddush over the first of the four cups of wine. You can not pour your own glass of wine though, as we're supposed to feel like people are taking care of us after we had been freed from slavery, even though we still need to pour wine for someone else so they have that same feeling. Also, we must pour for someone else the way we normally would for ourselves. If we use our right hand normally, we would use that when pouring for someone else.

Urechatz: We wash our hands by pouring water from a cup over each one, but we do not say the blessing over washing hands. 

Karpas: The parsley that we dip in salt water, to remember the tears of our ancestors who were slaves in Egypt. However, karpas doesn't need to be parsley. It can be anything that grows from the ground. We put a whole pineapple on our table to illustrate this point. 

Yachatz: The leader of the Seder breaks the middle matzah (there are three matzot in a cloth carrier) and then puts one half in another small cloth carrier to be used as the Afikomen and hidden later.

Magid: The story of Passover. We start out with the youngest at the table asking the four questions, which start with "Ma nishtana halilah hazeh, mi kohl halaylot?" It means "Why is this night different from all other nights?" They then ask why we eat matzah instead of bread, why we dip twice (this does not mean dipping parsley twice in salt water, but the number of times an item is dipped into something else), why we eat bitter herbs, and why we lean back in our seats (we usually keep a pillow behind us). 

The story proceeds to answer all these questions and there are many creative ways to go about telling it. On one of the Seder nights, my kids put on a Passover skit as a fun way to tell the story. We also have objects to resemble each of the plagues upon Egypt. We sometimes include a game to keep things fresh. (My husband printed song titles one year and we had to find something in the story that fit the title we chose at random.) This is also the time we sing "Dayenu", which means "enough" and dip our fingers in the wine to count the plagues. The second glass of wine is consumed after the Magid is finished.

There's also a Seder plate at the table, which has items that are used or referenced throughout the Seder. I honestly don't know why the egg is there. I've read in some places that it's a symbol of mourning and in other places that it's a symbol of rebirth. I don't eat hard-boiled eggs either way... 

Courtesy of Food52

Rachtza: Washing hands for bread (matzah in this case). We say a prayer for handwashing this time.

Motzi and Matzah: Blessings are said over bread (symbolically) and matzah and then we get our first bite of matzah for the holiday. We're not supposed to eat any matzah until this time.

Maror and Korech: We eat the bitter herb (horseradish), but can have a piece of lettuce in place of it if one does not like horseradish root (yours truly, included). Then we make a sandwich with matzah, the bitter herb, and charoset (which resembles the mortar used when the we made pyramids during our enslavement). 

Shulchan Orech: The meal. We usually have matzo ball soup, brisket, chicken, potatoes, and anything else delicious that is also Kosher for Passover. This is also when an adult hides the Afikomen so the kids can find it later for a prize. 

Tzafun: We eat the found Afikomen. That's the last thing we can have from the meal before moving on to the rest of the Seder. 

Barech: We say the blessing over the meal. Then the third glass of wine, and we also invite the prophet Elijah in at this time to drink his wine.

Hallel: Praising Hashem for taking us out of Egypt. There's more of an explanation here.

Nirtzah: The end of the Seder. The fourth glass of wine is consumed. We say "L'shana Haba'a, Yerushalayim" (Next year in Jerusalem.) We also sing a few concluding songs if we haven't fallen asleep by then. :) There's one called "Had Gadya", which is about a goat and the song keeps building on itself. My husband found a way to make the song amusing last year, but adding all these extra words and sounds to different parts of the song.

Well, there you have it. If you have any questions or would like to know more, I'm glad to chat with you! Just for fun, here's a Billy Joel parody mash-up about Passover. 

Sara Steven:                                                                                                                             
When I think of spring holidays, I think of Easter. And when I think of Easter, I think back to a time when my children appreciated a pastel-colored basket, layered with the “grass” that would eventually end up all over the floor or stuck to the bottom of shoes–the kind that would stick to candy-covered sticky fingers and somehow find its way behind furniture or under couch cushions. The grass was meant to camouflage Cadbury eggs and robin’s eggs, with jelly beans in multiple colors and flavors, but it never hid the giant chocolate bunny that rose up like Mt. Olympus above all other things–DVDs, gift cards, stuffed farm animals and the ever elusive egg coloring kit.

The baskets would always be a welcome surprise first thing in the morning, like beacons–and in those days, my children wholeheartedly believed in the Easter Bunny and I was fine with that. I am a firm believer in allowing my boys the opportunity to just be kids. To believe in something magical.                                                                                                                      Baskets were followed up by coloring all of the hard boiled eggs that sat chilled in the fridge, waiting to be dipped into plastic cups full of vinegar and disintegrated colored tabs. The kit would always contain some strange golden metal thingamajig that you’d have to use in order to lift the egg up and out of the cup; you never realize just how much hand-eye coordination you need to bring the eggs back up and to the surface, their smooth and porous shells bobbing in and out.

Sometimes the kits would come with a white crayon, used for creating unique and interesting designs on the shell, but the older child would write letters or numbers or squiggly lines, while the younger one tried to eat the crayon. 

The leftover vinegar was often knocked over, and I would forget to cover the table with anything protective, which ultimately led to subtle stains in greens and blues and purples. I’d remind myself–next year, next year I’ll cover the table with newspaper or old towels–but it never happened. We later donated the table to a friend of ours. I wonder if he ever noticed.

An all-out egg hunt would commence after egg coloring–the two of us, my husband and I, in charge of hiding all of the plastic eggs filled with candy and money, the boys in search of the loot. The anticipation of who would find what was always a wonderful feeling, but finding said plastic eggs months later with rotting candy melted inside? Not so much. We could never remember where we planted every single egg, and the kids wouldn’t always find the hidden eggs. Yet, they somehow always found the ones with money inside. 

In those days, it was a huge production, finished up by an Easter dinner of ham with all the fixings. And in later years, particularly the last few, it hasn’t been. The boys are older now. We still have a big dinner with our family, and we still have an egg hunt, but it’s not the same. No one thinks the Easter Bunny really exists. This year, the older boy (almost seventeen now) asked if we really need to have an egg hunt at all.                                                                                                            I miss the old days. Even with the basket grass and stained tables and gooey chocolate fingers. You always hear how quickly time goes by and how you can’t ever have those moments again, so cherish them, cherish them! And I try to. I really do. It feels like only yesterday my boys were looking for those plastic eggs in the backyard–not ten years ago. It can be hard sometimes when the moment feels chaotic and nuts, as can often happen when your children are on a sugar high, but I do wish for times like that again.

As for this year? We’re having a lovely brunch with our family and close friends who are like family. Our teenager has to work that afternoon–the joys of existing on the cusp of adulthood. But there will be modified baskets–I’ve done away with the grass–and there might still be an egg coloring kit (or two), and the egg hunt is a done deal. Even if the teenager, who often acts like he’s too old for something yet ends up enjoying it most of all, might protest. This is our special tradition, and I think it’s important to carry on and tweak things when needed–creating memories that hopefully my boys can share with their own children someday. 

Tell us about your spring holiday traditions!

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