Passover starts next Monday night -- the one holiday I become the most Jewish I'll be all year long. I light the candles of the menorah for Chanukah, and when I remember to do so I light a Yahrzeit at Yom Kippur, but for Passover I actually put forth a little Hebraic effort. That is to say, I hold a seder. And even that I don't do well.
Since most of my family and close friends work and aren't Jewish enough - or at all - to care too much about observing the seder on the first night of Passover, I hold mine on whatever night of Passover happens to fall on a Saturday. This year that's the sixth night of Passover. What, you never heard of the traditional sixth night of Passover seder?
Because of this, my Passover seders tend to fall on Easter weekend. My mother was raised Catholic and converted to Judaism 40 years ago, but we kept certain Easter traditions in my house growing up, like Easter baskets and Easter hams for dinner. That's right, brace yourselves: my traditional Passover dinner almost always involves ham.
That noise you just heard was the sound of my late great-grandmother, The Wicked Witch of Miami Beach, rolling in her grave and cursing to my father that she always knew nothing good would come of his marrying that no-good (converted) shiksah.
I don't even have a proper seder plate, which suddenly pales in comparison to serving ham with the matzoh. My cup for Elijah is a blue Waterford goblet that I bought in a set of two at a Waterford liquidation sale. The goblet's mate broke a long time ago, so now the goblet widow is my Elijah's cup.
I also don't bother cleaning out all of the chametz from my house. Even though my husband the shaygetz likes putting peanut butter (itself considered chametz by Ashkenazi Jews) on his matzoh, we still keep plenty of leavened bread around. I'm sure if he were still around, Moses would have wanted me to continue enjoying my morning bowl of shredded wheat during Passover, and a bagel on Saturday mornings.
By now you're probably thinking: Why bother? Why bother even having a seder if I'm going to do it all wrong?
I think that Tevyah says it best in the opening song to "Fiddler on the Roof" - tradition.
Sure, my traditions may be all (mostly) wrong as far as strict Jewish law goes, but they're mine. I get a proper shank bone from the butcher at my grocery store and make charoset from scratch. My brother Mr. Funny and his wife Daria come over. So do my brother-in-law Gilligan and his boyfriend The Professor. Our friend Mrs. Snape usually joins us. And sure, between the seven of us we have only two-and-a-half actual Jews, but we have our traditions. Seder is Hebrew for "order," and I do follow the actual order of the ceremony. We take turns reciting the Passover story and dip our greens in salt water. I break the middle matzoh and we dip our fingers in wine for the 10 Plagues. Daria, currently the youngest in our group with the power of speech, asks the Four Questions.
Although my son, the Juban Princeling, is only a year-and-a-half old and therefore too young to join us at the seder this year, next year he will be old enough and he will sit at the table with us. To Daria's immense relief he'll take his place asking the Four Questions, until his future siblings or cousins come along and learn to talk. We'll hide the afikomen and he'll look for it and we'll give him a prize when he finds it. (When I was little the afikomen was always on The Wicked Witch of Miami Beach's lap, and because she had zero patience she just handed it to whichever great-grandchild had the nerve to approach her first and ask for it.)
This year my parents are flying into town for the weekend, lending a certain air of l'dor v'dor ("generation to generation,") to my seder as I lead my own parents in the reading of the Haggadah. My mother called me last week to tell me she bought some Passover presents for the Princeling, even though he can't join us at the seder table yet. "What did you get him?" I asked. She hesitated before laughing and blurting out, "I bought him the Ten Plagues Finger Puppets!"
And if finger puppets representing each of the Ten Plagues doesn't just scream "ancient Passover traditions," then I just don't know what does anymore. Maybe I'll start a new family tradition of hiding each of the puppets in a plastic Easter egg and letting the Princeling hunt for them around the house. "Look! You found pestilence!"
Rest In Peace there, Wicked Witch of Miami Beach.