Top 10 Ways to Liven up Your Seder

1. Jewish Spring Cleaning

Jews make a ritual out of cleaning the house of chametz (leavened foods). Have fun with this treasure hunt/nighttime flashlight game.

a. Bedikat Chametz — Search for Chametz:

On the night before the first seder, when all cleaning is finished, hide 10 small pieces of bread around the house and let the children search for them. Traditionally, the search is done with a candle, a feather for brushing up the crumbs and a wooden spoon to hold the crumbs. We give each child a flashlight, a feather, a wooden spoon and a paper bag.

Before beginning the search, establish the ground rules. Together say the blessing “Praised are you, Adonai, our God, Guide of the Universe, who has sanctified us with the mitzvot and commanded us to remove all chametz.” After turning out all the lights in the house, the parents sit down and the children search, sweeping the crumbs into the wooden spoon and dropping them into the bag.

b. Bittul Chametz — Formula of Nullification of Chametz:

After finding the 10 pieces of bread, gather together and say: “All chametz in my possession, which I have not seen or removed, or of which I am unaware, is hereby nullified and as ownerless as the dust of the earth.”

c. Biur Chametz — Burning the Chametz:

Usually completed before 10 a.m. on the morning before the first seder, we do this the same night as the search. Traditionally, all the chametz found, along with the candle, spoon and feather, is burned. We burn just the bread and the paper bag. Barbecues or fireplaces are the safest places to do this (always under adult supervision), but a No. 10 tin can on the driveway can suffice.

2. Munchies for Small Tummies

Sometimes small and not-so-small tummies can hardly wait for the food to be served, so the seder ritual may start to feel long. Along with the blessing for karpas (the greens), set out platters of all kinds of veggies and dips. Along with the first or second cup of wine, pass out juice boxes. The pressure to hurry the seder will be abated, and everyone will be much more satisfied. Besides, do you really think that in ancient days they waited for an hour or two around a table before eating? Be real!

3. Kid-Led Passover Skit

Invite the children to dramatize the Passover story. In the hour(s) leading up to the seder (when the adults sit around and schmooze), give the children a shortened version of the story, and send them into a room to prepare a skit. An older sibling might be asked to direct the production. You might give them costume material (bathrobes for Moses and Miriam, a baby doll with a blanket for baby Moses, a headdress for Pharaoh, etc.). In addition to or instead of reading the magid (story) from the haggadah, let the children act it out.

4. Ten Plagues Fun

Write one number (from one to 10) on the outside of each of 10 small paper bags. Then fill each bag with something that represents the corresponding plague. Place one bag under the seat of each child and person (tell them not to open it). At the appropriate time, have the child open bag No. 1. Guess the plague. Suggestions: For Blood, put in a small jar of water and a dropper of red food coloring. For frogs, buy a few plastic novelty-store frogs or cut out pictures. For lice, use brown rice (kosher for Passover in Sephardic homes) or buy small plastic bugs. For beasts, put in stuffed animals and a card instructing the child to growl. For pestilence, take pictures of cows and sheep and draw green dots on them. For boils, either use a small teapot (get it?) or Band-aids. For hail, use a bunch of table tennis balls. For locusts, try novelty-store grasshoppers or bugs. For darkness, use blindfolds, paper bags over the heads or a written instruction to turn out the lights. For death of the firstborn, use plastic skeletons, make toe tags, or just instruct the firstborn children to do an elaborate dying scene.

5. It Feels Like Slavery When…

After dipping the karpas into the salt water, have each person finish the phrase, “I once cried tears of sadness when…” and “The slaves probably cried because…” After eating charoset, answer, “The last time I worked really, really hard was…” and “The slaves probably worked harder than I did because…” After eating matzah, answer, “When I eat the matzah, I think about…” At other times, answer, “The opposite of freedom is… which means…” and “To me, freedom is…”

6. Seder Plate Who Am I?

On Post-it notes, write these Passover symbols, one on each slip: matzah, maror (bitter herbs), karpas, wine/grape juice, salt water, beitza (egg), afikomen, pillow, haggadah, zeroa (shank bone). Make enough so that each guest has one. After the four questions are read and translated, stick one note on each guest’s back. Guests stand up and look on each other’s backs. Each guest asks the others, “Which symbol am I?” Answers may mention only what the symbol symbolizes or what you do with the symbol. The object of the game is for everyone to figure out what symbol is on his or her back.

7. Miriam’s Cup

Place an extra kiddush cup (or wine goblet) in a place of prominence next to Elijah’s cup. When all are seated, pass around the cup and have everyone pour a bit of his/her water into the cup. Tell them you will explain its purpose later. After reading the magid in the haggadah, raise Miriam’s Cup and say (or copy off this prayer so everyone can say):

“Miriam, a prophetess, predicted the birth of her baby brother Moses, guarded him as he floated down the Nile, witnessed Pharaoh’s daughter drawing him out of the river and arranged for their own mother to care for the infant. Miriam was over 80 when she kicked up her heels and led the women in joyous dancing, celebrating the Israelites’ safe crossing of the Sea of Reeds in their escape from slavery in Egypt.

“A symbol of her special place in the life of the Jewish people was the miraculous well known as Miriam’s Well, which quenched the thirst of our people during their 40-year trek in the desert. We place on our seder table this special Cup of Miriam — Kos Miriam — to remember this remarkable woman, who was a prophetess, dancer and guardian of our people.”

Set Miriam’s Cup down, but do not drink from it.

8. Transform the Room With

Butcher-Paper Murals

The seder can take place in the middle of the Reed Sea, on dry ground, with walls of “water” on both sides. Cover two opposite walls of the seder room with blue poster board or butcher paper to turn the room into the parted Reed Sea. At one end is a large mural of a pyramid, and at the other end is an even larger mural of Mount Sinai, with a silver cloud hovering over the top and bolts of gold and silver lightning. Hence the room reflects where we came from at one end and where we are going at the other. In the middle is the experience of redemption.

The blue walls of water are decorated with reeds (green crepe paper) and fish swimming to and fro. On the tables will be blue glass platters with white sand to emphasize that we are holding seder on the dry sea bottom. We even found a CD of water sounds. When people arrive, the first thing they will do is color in their own fish and put them on the walls of water.

9. Seder Symbol Stickers

(A Counting Game)

Draw on placemat-sized paper the outline of a seder plate, complete with spaces for each symbol. On blank stickers (or computer labels), draw pictures of each symbol. Whenever a symbol is mentioned or used in the seder, the children can place a sticker on the appropriate place on the placemat.

10. Charoset Taste Test

In each country where Jews have lived, unique charoset recipes have developed. Make two or three varieties, and do taste tests during the seder.

Ashkenazi Charoset