How to Plan a Seder

Passover is celebrated in a festive meal called a Seder, during which the exodus of the Jews from Egypt is in a sense reenacted. Passover is perhaps the most important holiday for creating lasting and warm Jewish memories for all guests, young and old. Seder means "order," and in celebrating this holiday you'll need to follow specific procedures, as spelled out in a book called the Haggadah.

Determine your guest list of family and friends. Non-Jewish friends are also invited to share in the festivities. In fact, you are encouraged to invite non-Jews, to remind yourself and your kin that you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.

Decide on the day you'll hold your Seder. Passover lasts eight days, and many Jews attend several Seders during that time. The first night of Passover is the most celebrated. Consult with friends and relatives before choosing a date for your Seder.

Create the menu. Guests share traditional foods and drink at Passover, including beef brisket, roast turkey or chicken, gefilte fish, hard-boiled eggs, candied carrots, potato kugel, salad, and chicken soup with matzoh balls. Pork is forbidden, of course, as is leavened bread, symbolizing the fact that the Jews had to leave Egypt so fast that they didn't have time for the bread to rise. You should also empty your kitchen of all foods forbidden during Passover, including bread, cakes, biscuits, crackers, cereal, wheat, barley, oats and rye.

Buy items for the ceremonial Seder plate, including matzoh (unleavened bread), karpas (fresh parsley), maror (bitter herbs, usually horseradish), charoset (an apple, nut and honey dish), a lamb shank bone, and a roasted egg. You'll also need kosherfor- Passover wine, enough for each person to drink four glasses.

Choose your Haggadah reading. Your selection will depend on your guests. If children will be present at your Seder, select a child-friendly Haggadah. Or use a traditional Haggadah passed down through the generations.

Prepare the table, making sure you have enough seating (you'll need an extra seat for Elijah, the Prophet, just in case he decides to come back and herald the messianic era). Place a small ornamental pillow at the left arm of the Seder leader's chair. A traditional Seder table includes several small dishes of salt water (all participants dip greens into this), and a dish and towel in which the leader may wash his or her hands.

Encourage everyone to participate in the Seder by singing songs and taking turns as the leader.