[[heads up, this is a photo-less post! kudos to you if you get through the whole thing!]]
And so it begins – the 8 days of the year when all Jews (well, the observant ones) are forbidden to eat leavened bread for 8 days! While most are off celebrating easter with lots of chocolate, brunch items, and things we can’t eat, we ring in the holiday with a ceremonial meal – the passover seder. (click here to read more)
Passover celebrates the freedom of the ancient Israelites from their oppressors in Egypt (I’m not going into detail, if you want to know more, click here to read the Wiki page). We have a meal with lots of songs, prayers, and symbols, to remember our ancestors.
But, for me – and many other Jews in today’s society – holidays like these are more of a cultural and family event. It’s a time to gather with those you don’t get to see often (and those you do), share stories, sing songs, eat good food, make fun of each other, and laugh together. Unfortunately for me, I haven’t been able to share this holiday with my whole family at home for the last six years. Which makes me incredibly sad.
I love the family seder experience, so this year, I reached out to the Jewish community in Stockholm to find a place to go for a seder. I was lucky enough to be directly contacted by the Rabbi (!!), who invited me to his house. Seemed like a big deal, but I was thrilled nonetheless. I started my evening at Shabbat services at beautiful Stora Synagogan (The Great Synagogue) in Stockholm. Then, I walked with the Rabbi, his family, and a few other young people to his small apartment.
The company at the seder was fantastic. Four of the Rabbi’s five daughters were in town from Israel (<–what is it with Rabbis and having five daughters…). They reminded me how much fun Israelis are. Loud, ridiculous, singing all night, I loved it. Some (Swedish) family friends of the Rabbi also had their two little kids – omigod they were so cute! It’s been ages since I attended a seder with little kids – and it really makes it so much more fun, even for the adults. The leader focuses on teaching the kids the traditions and telling them the story, but everybody gets to ooh and ah at their cute-ness, and we all may learn something in the process. There were also a few other 20somethings there, and it was great to connect to some other young Jews!
The food. I wish I could show you what we ate that night, but the seder is not a time to take pictures of food all night. In fact, in most religious households, use of a camera (or other electronic equipment) is forbidden on holidays! Anyway, the food was fantastic. I have to say I was a little worried about the meal being meat-heavy, since many traditional seders are. It was a lovely surprise to find out that the Rabbi keeps a vegetarian household! All the food was prepared by the daughters, and was delicious. On the menu was:
- hard-boiled eggs in salt water (tradition)
- charoset (tradition)
- matzah ball soup (veg)
- herbed salad – gorgeous, refreshing
- roasted veggies and squash
- veg. holishkes (stuffed cabbage)
- salmon cakes – these were amazing
- for dessert: homemade chocolate pudding and fresh fruit
(and plenty of wine for all) I think that’s probably the healthiest passover meal I’ve ever been to. Was it traditional when it came to the food? Barely. But it still tasted like a true passover meal, as many of these foods are traditionally Israeli/Jewish.
However the food was hardly the main event – which is rare for me! I know I’m learning to appreciate life and company more than food, which is a huge step, and I must say I’m proud of myself for it. I didn’t feel like I over-ate, I savored every bite, and was perfectly happy not to go crazy and overload on desserts like I have in the past. I was happy.
The whole night lasted over 5 hours (I didn’t get out of there until midnight!), but it seemed like no time at all. The only thing really missing was my family. I hope we can spend Pesach together next year, I miss you all! Especially you, Zady <3.
What are your favorite holiday traditions?
Are there any you don’t get to take part in that you truly miss?