After eight days of Passover celebrations, it’s tempting for me to get back into the swing of things, without even talking about Passover at all. After all, we’re done! Ha! But, as I started packing all my Passover paraphernalia in boxes, and shlepping them back into the garage (read: getting my house back to normal), I made a few mental notes of things that I’ve learned over the years, which have definitely been helpful to make my Passovers actually enjoyable (read: preserve my sanity). :-) So here you go, Five Practical Tips for Passover. Thank me next year! :-)
1- Involve the Children – This one applies year round, and we know it! But, sometimes it’s hard to implement, for a number of reasons. For example, we might want to get things done faster, our way, or just not get into a power struggle with the kids. However, I think when it comes to Passover (Pesach) it’s INCREDIBLY important to let go of our OCD tendencies and find ways in which the children can be involved, even if it’s not exactly in the way we would want them. Here are a few examples of what works in my household…
- I had one child who flat out told me, “Don’t ask me to shlepp or clean – it’s not my thing. But, when it comes to squeezing all your oranges and lemons, you can count on me.” Listen, is it ideal? No, of course not. It’s quite annoying, actually; especially, when I needed help. BUT rather than get upset, I held my breath and took him up on his word. He sure did squeeze a lot of fruit juice! (And this is my favorite gadget to get that job done!)
At the end of the day, what memories do we want our kids to have of Passover? A nervous, screaming mother who forced them to work like crazy, OR memories of a time when we all pitched in and the child remembers, “I was the lemon and orange juice squeezer in my family…”? Can you see the difference? Was the juice squeezing station a lot messier than I would have cared for? (It wasn’t too bad, really.) But, in any case, this would be the time to put your blinders on, and hire extra cleaning help, if that’s what it takes.
- One of my kids loved peeling potatoes and other vegetables, and others didn’t care for it. That’s ok. Find what they like, and go channel that energy to the max! Be sure to say THANK YOU for whatever task they do get involved in.
- My kids love getting involved in the “decor,” and this year was no different… They loved making three large murals for our dining room. One mural was of the Ten Plagues, one of the Splitting of the Red Sea, and one of Receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai. This kept them busy an entire morning, AND the display was pretty nice! Plus, every guest who came into our home during the Eight Days of Passover praised their beautiful work, which made them each feel like a million dollars!
- This year, two of my kids decided that they would distribute, course-by-course, the Seder items to each of our 25 guests. First, Karpas and Salt Water. Then, Matzot, Maror and Charoset. They were amazing! My husband had choreographed everything together with them in advance, so they knew exactly what to bring out when. They really rose to the occasion, serving all our guests, taking charge of each step, delivering to each guest exactly what was needed at the right time.
- Another one of my kids got involved arranging and setting the tables, placing stickers on the chairs to protect the wooden floors, etc.
- Another one of my kids is into leading and speaking during the Seder, so you could count on him to lead, explain, tell a good story and keep everyone engaged, when my husband needed a break.
You get the picture: Involve the Children! You win on all counts… get help, teach them lifelong skills, and create memories that they’ll cherish. (Basically, allow them to OWN the celebration as much as YOU own it!)
2- Stock-up on (or create) food that your children will actually eat – Enough said. We all agree that it can be challenging feeding children during Passover.
My family’s Passover diet, following Chabad customs, includes: (1) only vegetables that can be peeled, and (2) hardly any processed foods. Olive oil, handmade (shmurah) matzah, wine and grape juice are the only processed foods we use. (The ‘kids’ eat some dairy products, too.)
Use your creativity ahead of time, brainstorm with friends, and make eating as pleasant (and fun) as you can for them. Ultimately, your sanity will depend on it. :-) This year, I made dozens of pints of homemade, 100% fresh-fruit sorbet (strawberry, mango and banana), and we also froze popsicles from fresh fruit juices, as well as bottled grape juice. These healthy, sweet treats made a huge difference! (Btw, we didn’t use any sugar during the entire 8 days, and let me tell you… we didn’t miss it at all!)
3- Budget for Passover in advance – if you’ve never done this, start now! Make an accounting of how much Passover cost this year, so that you’ll know around how much you should budget for Passover next year. Save that money in advance! Period. This should be done for all our large expenses, in general, but it’s worth mentioning it now. It’s awesome to know that you need $2,000 (or whatever your amount is) to have the Passover that you love with the amount of matzah, meat and wine, and guests that you want, and have the money ready to go in a separate bank account.
(By the way, if you like this method, and have always wondered how to do such a thing, I happen to love Capital One 360 because it allows you to have separate “sub-accounts” within your savings account and you can name each sub account.) It’s nice to see that your Passover account, your Rosh Hashanah account, life insurance premium account…, etc., are all getting funded throughout the year. You get the picture. Ok major tangent… but, trust me, it’s a good tip. Thank me next year! And please, please, budget to get extra cleaning help if you know you’re going to need it. Again, it’s all about your sanity (and the children’s, remember?)
4- Have guests and then some – I know some of you might fret over this one. While I agree that each of us have our own “guest barometer,” the reality is that having guests for Holiday meals (and Shabbat meals, of course) brings tremendous joy to the ENTIRE family. Plus, YOU will enjoy yourself. (Choose guests whose company you’ll enjoy. Duh!!!)
And here’s a secret, in case you didn’t figure this one out already: your kids will behave better when you have guests! (Unlike when its just your family sitting down for a meal… Do I hear bickering, yet again!?) All year round, ladies! All year round… this is the secret benefit to having guests that no one told you, hehe. Before you know it, you’ll be the hostess with the mostest… I know!
5- Have one Seder for guests and one Seder just for your kids – This tip is for those of us who are mothers of young kids, and who live outside of Israel (and thus, we celebrate two Seders). My proven method to Seder success is to host a lot of friends for first night Seder, and to dedicate the Second Seder to our children. Second Seder tends to start later, and is harder to prepare for, since you should really only start setting up after the first night is actually over! This Seder is my kids’ time to shine. They show-and-tell the Hagaddot that they prepared in school, tell us stories, show us pictures, projects etc. Again, it all goes back to those memories. True, while each kid is reading and sharing away, my husband and I are ready to collapse. Imagine, it’s 11:15 pm, and we haven’t even started eating… BUT we’ve made the Seder about THEM — the next generation. After all, isn’t this who the Seder is for!?
Now, over to you? What practical tips do you have that make your Passover more enjoyable?
Related Post: Five Passover Sanity Savers
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