What does Passover mean in American Jewish community?
Often Jews will say, “Passover is my favorite holiday.” Often Christians will say, “Christmas is my favorite holiday.” These two days are pretty different – one about the exodus from Egypt and the other about the birth of Jesus. What do we DO on these days? Passover revolves around telling the story of the redemption of the Hebrews from slavery and Christmas is about the birth of Jesus – and is often a big gift opening day.
But I don’t think it is these two behaviors that draws individuals to them. I think it is the fact that they are done with others. It is not gifts, the story telling or even the eating, it is being together. On an intimate family level, it is being with those you love – even if you argue. Seeing the familiar faces – grandparents, cousins, close friends, families we were born into and families we create. On a communal level, we know that all the other Jews around the world are “with us” on this night; together we are all recounting our going out of Egypt. On Christmas day, all Christians, and many non-Christians, are gathered with family and friends, everyone has the day off; everyone is listening to the same songs, making a very similar meal, gathered around a tree.
We love these holidays because they allow us to have an experience of togetherness.
Scientists who study Happiness report that despite all the conspicuous consumption of our culture, things don’t make us happy, experiences do. So, it isn’t the things we remember with joy, it is the experiences. As you prepare for Passover this year make an effort to imbue it with experiences you and your loved ones will treasure. Let the kids help make the food. Give your guests a task to complete, a dish to make. One of the most fun parts of Passover for me is the conversations I have with my best friends about who is making what. Find new recipes. Be sure grandma brings her traditional dish. (My husband must make his charoset recipe!)
Let the kids dress up and enact the story of Moses. Play games as you tell the story around the table. Get plastic frogs and insects to put on the table.
Want more ideas? Email me and tell me the ages and backgrounds of your guests I’ll give you some.