Here is my Passover recap- two weeks after the event! By the way, our internet is back. Yay!
If you don't know anything about Passover,
you will after you read this. Since I was raised in a Jewish household, I've observed this holiday almost every year of my life (exceptions include college and living abroad). It's the time of year when we remember our ancestors who were slaves in Egypt a very long time ago (anybody seen "The Prince of Egypt" or "The Ten Commandments"?). The Israelites were slaves in Egypt, and they escaped to freedom. That's the story in a nutshell.
Every year, Jewish families gather for the first two of the eight nights of Passover. We have a seder, where we sit around a table and retell the story of the exodus. It sounds a little lame, but I find it to be a lot of fun. There is a leader (my uncle or grandpa always lead), and then there are also participant readings so that everybody can be involved. There is food and singing involved, and, as many people love, there are four glasses of wine. That's right. During the service, we are instructed to fill and drink our wine glass four times. If you are a kiddie or just don't want to drink wine, there is plenty of grape juice to go around.
Below: me and my mom before the seder on night one. Doesn't my hair look curly?
Me and my brother Ben's girlfriend Emily. She's not Jewish, and this was her first Passover seder. She came both nights. She was a champ!
Me, Emily, Ben
The seder table
The Seder Plate. On it, there are the symbols of Passover. The karpas, or the parsley, is later dipped in salt water and eaten. It's symbolic of the tears of slavery. The charoset (chopped fruits/nuts) is for the mortar for the bricks that the Israelites used when they were slaves. The moror, or the horseradish, represents the bitterness of slavery. The shank bone denotes the sacrificial offering of the paschal lamb to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and the egg has the same meaning (and also represents the mourning of the loss of the Temple). My aunt puts an orange on the plate, because there was once a rabbi who said that a woman could stand on the bimah (platform in a synagogue) when an orange could go on the seder plate (in other words, when pigs can fly). Girl power!
Below is the parsley that we eat during the reading. There is also matzo, which is like a big dry cracker. When the Israelites fled Egypt, they didn't have time for their bread to rise. They were left with something resembling what you see below: unleavened bread. If you observe Passover correctly, you don't eat anything with yeast or leavening in it for eight whole days.
On my sharing plate, there was matzo with horseradish and charoset, a matzo and horseradish sandwich and a very bland piece of matzo (called the afikomen, which means "dessert") to eat later.
We read from this book on both nights.
Here I am, with my glass full of wine and dipping my parsley in salt water. It actually doesn't taste that bad. Or maybe I'm immune after eating it for so many years.
Once we get to page 18 out of 24, we take a break for dinner. It actually doesn't take that long to get to dinner, because we skip pages here and there.
We have the same food every year. We start with a hold boiled egg, and then we have gefilte fish. It's a pickled fish that probably comes from the Eastern European origin. Since my Jewish heritage goes back to Eastern Europe, we always eat this stuff at holidays. It's salty and slimy and has a really thick goopy sauce, but I can't get enough of it. Ask most American Jews, and they will tell you that they love it. When other people try it, though (my poor Alastair), they are usually utterly repulsed. I've been eating it since I was a baby, and I think it's fantastic.
I usually eat it with some red horseradish on the side.
Matzo ball soup comes next, which is much more easy to like than the prior food. It's just like chicken noodle soup, except there is a big matzo ball instead of noodles. It's a big mushy ball that's made up of matzo meal, and it soaks up all of the chicken flavoring. We call it "Jewish penicillin", because it's so nice to eat when you are not feeling well.
For the main course, we have veggie kischke. I don't really know what it is, but it tastes good. It's also Eastern-European. That's all i have to say about that....because that's all I know.
We also have passed platters of brisket and chicken, as well as matzo kuggel.
We then continue the service, drink more wine or grape juice and then we have dessert. There are heaps of Passover-friendly desserts that are so yummy. There were also two different kinds of cakes this year.
If you doubt that Passover is fun, I'll tell ya that I have brought several of my non-Jewish friends to seders before. They had fun, except when they had to eat the horseradish and possibly the gefilte fish....and possibly the parsley in salt water.
There are other traditions that I didn't touch on, like the kids hiding the afikomen and not giving it back to the adults until they negotiate for money, holding up finger puppets to represent the ten plagues (okay, I think that's just my family) and opening the door so that our invisible prophet friend Ellijah
can join us for our meal.
I have one more recap to do from home, and it has something to do with long dresses that are white! Woohooo!!!