By Rina Bergman and Alyssa Adler
(Alma via JTA) — Being an adult can be rough sometimes — like when you live too far from your family to go home for Passover or can’t find the time or money to do so. If this sounds like you, believe us, you’re not alone.
The good news is this in no way dooms you to an evening of eating matzo and drinking Slivovitz on the couch. With a bit of planning and some fine-tuned delegation, you’ll be hosting your own friend-Seder in no time.
Below, you’ll find some of our favorite friend-Seder tips. Consider it an afikomen present from your friendly neighborhood Passover fairies.
(Oh, one more thing before we start: Are you new to your city? Been there. Don’t be shy about reaching out to local synagogues and community centers to see what they have going on — they can point you in the right direction of people to celebrate the holiday with.)
Pre-Seder lesson plan
What do you want your Seder to look like? Maybe you’re a five-minute, in-and-out kind of Jew. Maybe you like singing and banging onto the table long into the night. Whatever you choose, do you. And make sure that’s decided ahead of time.
Need something to get you started? “A Night To Remember Haggadah” is Rina’s family’s favorite — and can help you visualize what kind of Seder you want to lead.
Make a list of people you want to have over, then start inviting immediately. People figure out their Passover plans early, so make sure your Seder is on your invitees’ radar. The guests don’t all have to know each other — icebreakers suck in the moment, but once you’ve all gone around the table sharing your first AIM screen name, a bond has been formed.
If you’re inviting non-Jewish friends — Rina did all the time in college — being extra explanatory at the Seder is key, especially if they’ve never been to one before. Giving them a heads-up before they arrive is a good call, too — send them something like “The Guide to Passover for Interfaith Families” from Interfaith Family (https://bit.ly/2KtLj8K) so they have an idea of what to expect.
Take it from us: You don’t want to spend the entire day before Passover cooking for the Seder. Delegate! You know your friends better than we do, so if someone’s known to cause kitchen fires, maybe they just bring the wine. Or the matzo. Or the citrus-shaped jelly candies (it wouldn’t be a Passover Seder without those bad boys). Need some recipe ideas? Might we suggest these lemon garlic green beans (https://bit.ly/2P0qtfZ), this Brussels sprouts salad (https://bit.ly/2D6l42b), this (vegan!) sweet potato spinach quinoa gratin (https://bit.ly/2KkMebB), this broccoli, cheddar and spinach frittata (https://bit.ly/2YZMAaP), or this incredible chocolate mousse (https://bit.ly/2U0IUlG) .
Know your kitchen
Keep your oven in mind: Both of our ovens are tiny, as in most commercial baking sheets don’t fit inside of them (thanks, New York City!). This means when we cook large meals, it takes a little longer than it would if we had ovens for, say, adults. Maybe you have a massive oven that can cook multiple dishes at a time — we envy you. If, however, your oven would be more fitting for a nursery school play kitchen like ours, then you need to strategize. We’re talking oven and stove-top space, cooking duration and temperature.
Oh, and your pans: Possibly even more important are your pans. Look at your menu and figure out how many pans and dishes you need — if you’re lacking, now is the time to grab some more, either disposable or reusable.
The actual Seder part: Haggadahs
The good thing about a Passover Seder is that it literally comes with an instruction guide, the Haggadah, so you don’t have to actually memorize any of the steps or prayers. But not all Haggadahs are created equal, even if their cover is identical. We learned this the hard way. Things become a little sticky when everyone’s Haggadah is a different edition and no one knows what page they’re supposed to be on. Do yourself a favor and order some online a few days before your Seder. Or, if you’re in a city with a Judaica store or Jewish bookstore, hit them up (and support small business!).
Ask your guests about their traditions and what they want to bring to the table. If your friend’s grandma makes the best charoset this side of Broadway, let her family tradition shine through. If another friend spent the 10 plagues throwing ping pong balls at his brothers, then table props it is. Icebreakers suck as a rule, but these are great ways for everyone to get to know each other. If you’re looking to shake things up, Alyssa’s family always reads “Dr. Seuss’ Four Questions,” a wacky version of the Four Questions — feel free to join in on the fun!
And to make it run smoothly …
Set the table the night before. Just one less thing to worry about.
As two type-A personalities, we understand how easy it is to get caught up in the chaos. Remember, this holiday is all about enjoying your freedom. Don’t let the chains of hosting bind you this Passover — what’s most important is that you’re with good company and you drink copious amounts of wine (or maybe sangria?!).