Like many holidays, in many faiths, and for many families, there are yearly traditions you follow. Unfortunately for my family-over the past 15 years- the week before Passover has "traditionally" brought a death and a funeral most years. There have been so many that my nephew, when he was 5 years old decided maybe the holiday should be called "Deathover" instead. We've skipped the last 2 years and were thinking our luck had changed..... until the director of the clinic where my sister works parttime announced his mother died and the funeral would be last Sunday. Drat, it struck again! Yes, I know the story of Passover involves the Angel of Death passing over the homes in Egypt and killing the first born son as one of the 10 plagues brought on the Pharoah and his people. And yes, I know the Jewish people have been called "the Chosen Ones" sometimes. But I'm stating for the record that my family is tired of being the chosen ones for deaths and funerals before Passover!!!!!!
So...... I want to start another tradition for Passover. I want to think about, and talk about as much humor and frivolity as possible. In that spirit, below are some of the funnier, sillier, and more playful actions that I can remember associated with Passover.
- The end of the ceremonial dinner, called a "seder" has 4 or 5 songs for all to sing. One song is called Kee Lo Na-eh [Hebrew transliteration] which means Because Praise Is Due To Him. Several years ago, my sister and I turned it into a contest to see who could sing the chorus the fastest. ( Let me state here that this singing part doesn't come until after we've had 3 ceremonial glasses of wine and possibly more with dinner!) Winner of the most fastest-verses, gets bragging rights. We get the rest of the family- and any unsuspecting guests- to be the judges. Most verses are so close, you practically need an audio tape to determine the winner. But occasionally, there's a clear winner, like last night. My sister won because I got tongue-tied on 2 verses and burst out laughing and couldn't finish the verses. Oh well, there's always tonight!
- Another part of the seder involves breaking the middle of 3 pieces of matzah on the table, [matzah is humongous-sized crackers used instead of any bread during the week of Passover] wrapping it up and hiding it for the kids to find later, after dinner. The hidden piece is called the Afikomen, pronounced Ah-FEE-ko-man. Our seder last night included a nonJewish family who had never been to a seder before. My sister gave the mom one of the prayer books we use so she could look it over and ask any questions she might have. During this past week, the mom called to ask some questions and was asking about the Ah-FEEKO-man. My sister thought it sounded too much like "fecal" and had to correct her so no one would think we were hiding feces in our house!!!
- A few years ago, my mom wanted to know, from my sister, what the grandchildren would like for their afikomen prizes. She called my sister to ask and caught her when she was busy and distracted. Mom said something like, "Oh, what about afikomen? What do you want?" My sister, who wasn't paying attention, thought mom said, "What about Alfred Cohen?" and she stopped to ask WHO was Alfred Cohen and WHAT did he have to do with our Passover?!! Ever since then, our family refers to the prizes as Alfred Cohen prizes. :-D
- Did I mention that the seder involves drinking wine????? Yeah, it's required to drink 4 cups/glasses at specific points in the seder. And NO, we don't have the kids drinking wine, they get sparking grape juice. (cuz it comes in bottles like wine and looks like wine and they feel grown up that way!) Since the dinner portion of the ceremony doesn't come until after the second cup/glass, the chances are we will be acting a little silly-depending of course on one's tolerance level! Anyway, we got to the part where we enumerate the 10 plagues. If there are children at the table (sometimes that includes teenagers) or if we have guests, we usually make the plague-counting interactive. This means there are props!! For instance, the 9th plague is darkness, so there are pairs of sunglasses for people to put on. One of the plagues-don't ask me the number- is hail, so there's a snack size baggie of teeny tiny cotton balls that someone throws into the air, or at certain people at the table, and inevitably, some land in our glasses of wine! Naturally, we rush to remove them since they are absorbent and will soak up that precious beverage we're mandated to drink! But my favorite plague, is the frogs. We've found these rubbery, squishy-feeling colorful frogs- about 2 inches big- and the best part about them? They will stick to the ceiling!!!! So kids and adults alike grab for the frogs and throw them, with gusto, up toward the ceiling! If you throw them hard enough, you'll have to get on a chair later and pull them down. [One of them from last night, didn't fall down until this afternoon!] If however, your pitching strength isn't great, you might find one falling down into your bowl of chicken soup or while you're serving yourself some vegetables! Our seders often have surprises. :-)
As you can see, even during our Passover funeral cycle, my family pulls together and tries to find some joy. We have more company coming over for the second seder tonight. These are familar, silly friends and I expect we'll find a few more laughs with them.