One of the most exciting aspects of any holiday is the gifts. This is especially true for children and Passover is no exception. Giving gifts to kids during Passover actually serves more of a purpose than just making children smile and are often small trinkets with religious or educational meaning.
Children have long received gifts at Passover as part of a religious tradition. The tradition begins when one piece of matza, called the afikomen, is broken and the broken piece is either hidden or "stolen" by the children gathered at the festivities. Kids get gifts in exchange for giving up the whereabouts of the afikomen. The word "afikomen" translates to "dessert" in Aramaic and it will be the last thing eaten to top off the holiday's services.
The gifts children receive at Passover are not meant to simply make them happy. The presents serve as a reward to return the afikomen as well as another practical purpose. Kids get very involved in the hunt for the afikomen, especially since gifts are involved, and they become wholly involved in what's going on around them. The main reason behind this tradition was to keep kids paying attention and awake during the entire Seder service.
Children's Passover gifts should be small and not too expensive, since many may have to be given at once. If a large crowd of kids are in on the hiding and finding of the afikomen, each child will need to be given a gift. Traditional gifts of nuts or coins work well, as they are small and readily available for a larger crowd.
Passover gifts for kids can be based on the traditional or have nothing to do with the religion whatsoever. Small pieces of chocolate wrapped in shiny foil that resemble coins are one popular option, as are small cookies or crackers. Non-food items include small books, puzzles, stickers, finger puppets or trinkets that represent the Passover tradition.
Any foodstuff given as children's Passover gifts should be Kosher for Passover. Anyone unsure if a food item is appropriate should look for markings on the outer package or label. Those that are acceptable will be marked with a small "U" or "K" symbol in a circle or state "Kosher for Passover."
One fun and educational gift that is a little more amusing than the ordinary is a small toy frog. The significance of the frog is that they were the second of the 10 plagues that befell the Jews during Passover. Hordes of frogs overran the land. Frog gifts can be small or large stuffed animals or come as illustrations on T-shirts, socks or other clothing items. One can also buy a large bag of toy frogs for a larger gathering of children.
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Illustration by Ryn Gargulinski