The Jewish holiday of Passover can be a lot of fun for kids. This eight-day festival commemorating the Jewish people's deliverance from slavery in Egypt is mostly celebrated at home and children are a big part of the festivities.
The special foods that Jewish families eat during Passover are an essential part of the holiday. For eight days, those observing Passover do not eat any leavened foods-foods that rise when cooked-or any foods containing wheat, except for matzo. That means no bread, no cereal, no pasta and no cookies. Following these rules can be quite a challenge, especially if your kids live on pizza and macaroni and cheese.
But Passover is not only about what you can't eat, it's also about what you get to eat. My family looks forward to eating two Passover foods all year: matzo ball soup and my mother-in-law's famous charoset. Matzo ball soup, that Jewish deli classic, is a favorite part of the Seder because, besides tasting good, it is often the first real food the hungry participants get to eat after the long pre-meal rituals. Charoset-a sweet, chunky spread made from chopped fruit and nuts-is a guaranteed kid favorite, especially when scooped up with the pieces of crunchy matzo.
Because children are such an integral part of the Passover Seder, I get my two involved in cooking for the meal. It's a great way to start a conversation about family traditions and the symbolism of the holiday foods. For example, on the ceremonial Seder plate, the charoset represents the mortar the Jews used as slaves in Egypt. Making the charoset with my kids inevitably leads into a discussion of why we eat this unusual food on Passover and what life must have been like for those Jewish slaves so long ago.
Hosting or attending a Passover Seder is a fun tradition. In fact, many Jewish families make it a point to invite non-Jewish friends to their Seders.
Chag Smeach! Happy Passover!
Emily Paster is a River Forest mom of two, a lawyer teaching at Loyola Law School and the mom behind the West of the Loop blog.