A Non-traditional Passover

-posted by Meghan

In our house growing up, Christmas and Easter were holidays we loved and celebrated, but we didn’t realize they were holidays any different from Halloween, the 4th of July or the Red Sox making the playoffs.  We were pretty much Christian in that we celebrated traditional Christian holidays, not that we were religious. Happily for me (because I love holidays)  I married a man who is also not religious but celebrates the traditions of the Jewish faith and the Red Sox have become a dynasty.  I pretty much get something major to celebrate every other week.

(One of our first Seder dinners as a family!)

We both want our kids to understand and respect the traditions of our cultures (and boy are our kids the melting pot come to life- Irish, Syrian, Welsh and English on my side and Hungarian and Russian from their Dad), so we’ve tried to make all holidays a time for family and traditions.  For me, this always includes books, but never more so than when it’s a tradition that I am still learning about!

So, we’ve accumulated a few books that I like, that have taught both me and the kids (and refreshed their Dad!) about the historical meaning of Passover, how to hold a Seder dinner, and just some fun goofy books that help bring it to life for the kids.  This is still all very new to me, so if anyone has any great books or thoughts about about celebrating Passover with kids, please share them!  Meanwhile, if these books are new to you, I hope you enjoy them as much as we do…

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Uncle Eli’s Passover Haggadah by Eliezer Segal, illustrated by Bonnie Gordon-Lucas

This was the first Passover book we got, and we actually got it before we had kids, to acquaint me with the holiday!  It is an actual (modified for kids/families) Haggadah, written as a rhyme in a way that reminds me of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (most of the reviews of the book compare it to Seuss, and there are plenty of non-sensical Seussical terms, but to me they feel a little forced and I think it suffers more than benefits from that comparison).  If you’re looking for a Hagaddah to do with school age kids (and up!), I think you couldn’t do better- and the pictures are a treat.  In our house the kids are still a little young and we read a few pages here and there as a fun book, rather than using it at the Seder. (Our modified Seder dinner takes more like 10 minutes, and then has about 15 minutes of songs sung to tunes the kids recognize, since they’re only three!)

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Passover: Celebrating Now, Remembering Then by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Karla Gudeon

This is my new favorite holiday book!  And I do mean new- it was only published this month.  It’s a beautifully illustrated book that shows both the origin of a Passover tradition and how it might typically be celebrated today.  Seeing the pictures linking the two really made the holiday come to life for me, as someone who was not raised thinking and talking about the traditions. My favorite example is the picture of the workers forces to build the pyramids and then showing the typical ingredients that go into the Charoset that is the reminder of the mortar used in building the pyramids.

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Five Little Gefiltes by Dave Horowitz

I love Dave Horowitz (Humpty Dumpty Climbs Again and Twenty-six Princesses), so I couldn’t wait to read this book and it did not disappoint!  It’s the tale of five little gefilte fish who leave the jar to explore New York.  Just like the Five Little Ducks, one less comes back each day (to which Mama Gefilte says “Oy Vey!”).  Since my husband (inexplicably!) likes gefilte fish and they are at our Seder table, I thought it was a great way to introduce the kids to the concept.  It’s also a funny way to teach kids all sorts of Yiddish vocabulary.

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The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Paul Meisel

A Jewish retelling of a classic story, like Five Little Gefiltes, but this one is even more relevant to Passover, since the Little Red Hen decides to make some Passover Matzah and begins with growing the wheat, etc.  In addition to the funny Yiddish language touches (the Red Hen kvetches instead of cheerfully going it alone: ““I should live so long, to see this bunch of lazy no-goodniks put in an honest day’s work.”), there’s an updated ending that I love where everyone discovers the true meaning of Passover and redeems themselves.  And there’s a recipe for matzah!  I love anything with a recipe!

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We started doing a Seder at our house as soon as the kids were born, and their schedule made it hard to leave the house to attend the Seder of someone who really knew what they were doing (on their first Passover, they were 2 months old!).  We found this website, and the abridged and kid friendly Haggadah, and really love it.  There are lots of kid ones out there, but this one is our favorite (it’s all about the songs!), and has become our family’s tradition.

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2 Responses to A Non-traditional Passover

  1. famillejt says:

    A lovely post. Do you have any recommendations for Hungarian picture books? If so, I’d love to hear about them.

  2. We LOVE Uncle Eli’s Haggadah in our nontraditional Jewish home! Thanks for such a thoughtful, well-worded post.

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