Originally published on JewishBoston.com.
Thank you for hosting a Passover seder! Here are a few tips to make it easy to lead a Passover seder that both you and your guests enjoy. If you’d prefer to read this in an easier-to-print PDF format, you can download that here. Need more resources? Visit our Passover Guide to see more of everything.
Before the Seder
A small amount of preparation can go a long way in making your seder fun for everyone, including you!
Pick Your Haggadah
- Of course, we recommend that you use The Wandering Is Over Haggadah!
- It’s designed to take about 30 minutes from start to dinner and to be accessible to everyone.
Read Through Your Haggadah to See if You Want to Tweak the Experience
- One of the best parts of a seder is that you can choose how to adjust your seder for your audience.
- What type of conversation do you want to have at your seder? Seders are designed to go off track. It’s through discussion that we explore how what happened so long ago is still relevant today.
- Look at the speech bubbles in our Haggadah and decide if they work for your crowd. To help get the conversation started, you may want to tip off some of your more vocal friends with the conversation topics in advance so they can have a first answer ready.
- Do you or your guests have favorite readings or traditions that you want to include? Some people like to enhance their seders with additional texts connecting the themes of Passover with the contemporary world or recent Jewish history (such as the Holocaust and the establishment of Israel).
- What types of songs do you want to include? Some people include songs from the American Civil Rights movement, while others like to include song-parodies, jokes or skits to help lighten the mood while explaining the Passover story. If you’d like to review the melodies for the more traditional seder songs, check out this online collection of song files: www.jewishbirthnetwork.com/passover-sing-along.html. For silly seder song parodies, try this site: holidays.juda.com/passover-songs.shtml.
- You’ll notice the meal is right in the middle of the steps. If you just stop there, you’ll miss some of the best parts (including half the wine)! But be realistic – if you don’t think you and your guests will want to pick up the Haggadah again after the entrée, consider moving some of the second-half highlights to the pre-dinner slot.
Decide How to Lead the Seder
- Just as seders vary from household to household, so do leadership styles.
- Our recommendation is to encourage lots of participation. That way everyone is invested in the experience and you’re likely to get more lively conversation.
- The Wandering Is Over Haggadah deliberately minimizes the role of the leader and the necessity for making choices. You can start your seder by instructing your guests to take turns around the table reading a paragraph at a time, and you’ll be on your way.
- As leader, you’re not completely off the hook! It’s your job to keep everyone on track and move everything forward.
Running the Seder
- First, do your best to start on time!
- Once everyone’s seated at the table, it may be helpful to set some expectations before launching into the seder proper. Explain how long you expect the seder to run until dinner, and if there will be food served before dinner, tell your guests when that will happen.
- It may also be helpful to explain how you intend to handle the Hebrew in the seder – there’s not a lot of it in our Haggadah, but if your guests don’t all know Hebrew and you’re going around the table, you wouldn’t want someone to feel awkward if their turn includes reading something in a language they don’t know. It’s OK to read it, sing it or skip it entirely, or let each individual decide what to do on their turn – just let people know as you start the seder.
Hiding the Afikomen
- There are three pieces of matzah stacked on the table. When indicated in the Haggadah, break the middle matzah into two pieces.
- The host should wrap up the larger of the pieces and, at some point before the end of dinner, hide it. This piece is called the afikomen, literally “dessert” in Greek.
- After dinner, the guests will have to hunt for the afikomen in order to wrap up the meal…and win a prize. (Don’t forget to decide on a prize in advance…cash works, but make sure you have the right-sized bills!) Once the afikomen is found and redeemed, send it around the table so that everyone can eat a small piece of it.
The Four Questions
- The Four Questions are typically sung by the youngest participant at the seder.
- If everyone at your seder is around the same age, perhaps the person with the least seder experience can ask them – or everyone can sing them all together.
Serving the Meal
- No one should have to skip the seder because they’re stuck in the kitchen preparing the meal. Luckily, many great seder foods, from brisket to roast chicken to kugel to tzimmes, can be prepared ahead and left in a warm oven.
- However, you don’t need to wait to feed your guests until the part of the haggadah marked out as the meal. The Karpas section of the seder (which happens fairly early) was designed by the rabbis as a way to work appetizers into the seder. After you’ve dipped your vegetables into salt water and said the blessing, consider bringing out a vegetable course, the gefilte fish or the boiled eggs. Don’t let hunger get in the way!
After the Meal
- Here’s the hard part…do you go on or not? Whatever you’ve decided in advance, it’s a good idea to check in with your guests and follow consensus. It’s also OK to let those who are tired go home while others stick around for more seder.
That’s it! Not so hard, is it? We wish you a wonderful seder! Don’t be a stranger—let us know how it goes. We’d love to hear about your seder. Email us at Feedback@JewishBoston.com.