Passover Seder Night

Passover has always been my favourite Jewish festival (see my previous entry about cinnamon balls and coconut macaroons for a very brief overview of it). For me it even beats Hannukah, on which you're religiously obliged to eat doughnuts (well, sort of) and I used to get a small present every day for each of the eight days the festival lasts when I was little.

Wine, wine, wine.
On Passover (or Pesach, if you prefer), the family gathers around for an at-home service (the Seder) and, in a nutshell, retells the story of the exodus of the Jews out of Egypt, and their freedom from slavery. Songs are sung, food is eaten, and a heck of a lot of wine is consumed (as dictated by the Haggadah- the Passover prayer book. Seriously, there are instructions in there on when to drink the wine and how much to drink at a time).

This is the Seder plate. Traditionally it includes bitter herbs (parsley), lettuce (... more parsley, since we didn't have any lettuce), charoset (the brown paste stuff, made from apples and nuts and made to look like mortar), more bitter vegetables (horseradish), a shank bone, and a very hard boiled egg. Salt water's in the middle... but I don't think it's part of the original Seder plate- usually it's put to the side of it. Each thing symbolises our ancestors' pain, suffering and ultimate hardiness.

There's also a lot of this stuff floating around during Passover:

Ah, matzoh. Or matzah- there are a lot of ways to spell a lot of Hebrew words. Flat, dry and, on the surface, unappealing: and yet we love it. Can't get enough of it, even when it's not Pesach and we're allowed to eat leavened bread.

Also, as the youngest of the family, it's my job/ duty to read the Mah Nishtanah every year during the Seder: which is essentially the passage in the Haggadah that asks all the 'why' questions. Why do we do all these strange rituals once a year? Almost literally the first passage asks, 'why is this night different from all other nights?'

I've read this passage almost every single year and still fluff the Hebrew.
Yes, I can read Hebrew- I was Bat Mitzvah-ed, after all. Can't understand most of it, though.

After the first chunk of the service, it's time for dinner. Mum cooked up a delicious roasted kosher chicken, with braised red cabbage, honeyed carrots and garlic butter potatoes. Then comes the second chunk- after which we settled down for coffee, alongside my cinnamon balls and macaroons.

And just to prove to you that I've inherited my liver from my Russian/ Polish ancestry rather than my Chinese one, I'm writing this quite coherently not so long after about four full glasses of wine downed within the space of about forty-five minutes. Disclaimer: do not try this at home, kids.


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