Celebrating Passover this year is going to be very different for my family. Instead of watching my daughter make homemade haroset with her nana or hearing my 97-year-old grandfather bless the wine, we will be self-isolating due to COVID-19 and celebrating Passover as a party of three — myself, my husband, and my 4-year-old daughter.
Since I could remember, Passover has been a holiday that is filled with tradition, love, and lots of noise. My entire family travels to be together, and we enjoy brisket served on my great-grandmother's dishes while we catch up with family and friends around the dinner table. As a mother to a young child, I really cherish these holidays because they teach my daughter to value traditions.
Like most other people in the world, we won't be celebrating Passover with many of our loved ones. We won't be eating my grandmother's matzo ball soup that she makes with the perfect amount of fresh dill. I won't be by my mother's side as she manages a Seder that appeals to several generations. My husband and I will be winging it and figuring out how Passover is going to be navigated on our own this year.
Here's how we're celebrating: First, we are going to allow ourselves a little time to be sad. Acknowledging that the situation is a total bummer is important to us in order to be able to move on and enjoy the blessings that we do have. We are planning on "letting it out" and sharing what we are missing this year. We each get 10 minutes to be sad.
Once we are ready to put on our happy faces, we are focusing on our daughter. We want our daughter to look back on Passovers with positive memories, even if it isn't the memories that we were hoping for. We are breaking tradition in a few ways because, to be honest, we can. We are skipping some of the parts that we don't care for (like the obligatory gefilte fish app) and sprinkling in some unique new traditions we know our daughter will love and will help her stay engaged in the experience.
My husband and I are the antithesis of Pinterest parents, but our daughter loves crafts and games. We found an online store called Your Holy Land Store that ships creative Passover-themed crafts and toys (think Passover Seder bingo and a 10-plagues DIY puppet kit). Our Passover is going to start with a game or craft to get her excited for what is to come — perhaps a quick game of frog and matzo tic-tac-toe.
While many families are leaning on Zoom or Skype to celebrate the holiday together virtually, we know my elderly grandparents will not be able to figure that out. Instead, we plan on calling our family members individually and saying one blessing with each over the phone. That way, both my daughter and my family members can have some special one-on-one time during the holiday.
We figure that looking for the afikomen (a tradition where a broken piece of matzo is hidden for kids to find) without any competition is pretty lame. Instead of the traditional game of letting everyone look for the same hidden piece of matzo, we are making it a race. We are timing the afikomen hunt with two other families who will be celebrating. When it is time for the hunt, we are getting all families on a Zoom call. Each child will search for the afikomen in their own home, but whoever finds an afikomen first wins. Friendly competition never hurt anybody — if anything, it makes things more interesting!
Since the entire holiday celebration will be pretty nontraditional this year, our dessert is following suit. DIY matzo s'mores are going to be our surprise treat instead of the basic sponge cake and macaroon. Making s'mores is something we would never normally do during Passover, but we're certain it will put a smile on all of our faces.
We'll close the night making another craft that will be mailed to each family member the next morning. While we'll be having a dinner filled with laughter, love, and happy memories, we know most of our other family members may be sad and lonely. We hope that getting a Passover surprise in the mail will put a smile on their faces later in the week.
This year's Passover will be bittersweet. It will be a break from traditions and may feel lonely. Passover dinner has been a constant in my life since before I can remember. But making the focus our daughter and sharing traditions in a fun and positive light will be a welcomed distraction for us and will create a memory for her that she will remember forever.