Passover is the time Jewish people remember their escape from slavery during ancient Egyptian times. Each family celebrates their Passover Seder differently but there are some general elements that remain consistent. If you are attending your first Seder dinner as a guest, here is some essential information to make you feel a little more comfortable.
My first Passover dinner or Seder happened a few years after I was dating my now husband. Needless to say, I was a little nervous. I didn't know what to expect.
I was sure I was going to make a huge mistake, completely embarrass myself, and never be invited back to their house. Luckily, my husband's family is extremely kind so even a big mistake probably would have been forgiven. Even luckier, none of that happened.
Before I went, I tried to figure some things out but couldn't get an inside scoop on what to expect. There was a lot of information about Passover in general but no good understanding of what to anticipate if you'd never previously attended a Seder.
What to expect at a Seder
Based on my experience (that first one and quite a few more since), here's my take.
If you are going to bring something for the meal, just bring a veggie
During Passover, Jewish people generally aren't supposed to eat any food that rises. Most people just equate this to bread but you would be amazed at what is on this list. Things like wheat, rye, oats, barley, legumes, corn, rice, and most products made from them. As you can tell, even trying to make a dessert gets difficult. Do yourself a favor and stick to a recipe with only a few simple ingredients, like a vegetable.
Don't make after dinner plans
The dinner is just one small part of the celebration. There is a lot of story telling and remembering that goes on prior to (and even after) the actual dinner. It takes time and then even the dinner is served in courses.
Be prepared to eat unusual things before the dinner is even served
The Passover Seder plate contains edible things to remind you of something specific to Passover story. Here's a list with the associated symbolism:
Some things you may never have had...
Some things you might enjoy. Some things you may never want again. Open your mind and your mouth. Take an insider tip though, look for the smallest sprig of parsley, it's not easy going down!
There are a lot of readings and stories
My husband's family likes participation so even I sometimes read in Hebrew (don't worry, I didn't learn before I went...they spell it out phonetically) and I am the worst. If you have to do it, just try your best. It's not a contest, it's a celebration.