Even the most seemingly normal family can go a little bonkers come time for the Passover Seder.
In my junior year of college, my girlfriend at the time refused to come to my family’s Seder because we did not follow the customs of the holiday to the letter of the law – this from a woman whose parents’ idea of a Sunday brunch included bacon instead of lox and bagels.
A few years later, another woman invited me to her mishpacha’s Passover meal. Rather than read from the Haggadah, an hour was spent with a ceremony akin to the Festivus airing of grievances.
Don’t let these missteps dissuade you from asking your partner to accompany you to your family’s Seder or accepting an invite from your new match. Here are some tips that will help avoid saying or doing something that will embarrass yourself or your partner.
Share The Dress Code
Because Passover comes in the spring, Seder attire is often dependent on the weather. At polar extremes, there are traditional families in New York who are dressed to the nines and those who live in places like Arizona who wear shorts and T-shirts (as we did) to break the matzo. Give your date a heads up so they won’t feel out of place.
Find Out If They Know Hebrew
Even though, growing up, I was the only person in my family who spoke, read or understood Hebrew, my mother insisted I lead the service in that confusing language so she could enjoy the fruits of my learning. If your date isn’t familiar with the language, it can make for an uncomfortable evening. Let your date know whether your family uses Hebrew, English or a mix of both, and let the host know not to put your date on the spot if they aren’t familiar with the language.
Ask About Dietary Restrictions
When your partner’s grandmother passes around her legendary chicken soup with matzo balls and your date has failed to mention that they are 1) a vegetarian or 2) allergic to chicken, things can get dicey. Don’t make your deal face stomach distress or an EpiPen injection in order to avoid rocking the boat; alert the host to his or her dietary restrictions beforehand.
Prep Them For Family Time
Yes, every family is weird, but such a distinction is relative (no pun intended). Let’s say you have an uncle who is willing to forget common courtesy and interrogate new guests. What about a cousin who likes to remind everyone of your past partners (some of whom may have been previous Seder guests)? While you might not want to write out an official program, a bit of warning about potential mishpacha menaces is definitely in order.
The good news is that having your beshert at your family Seder can lead to something special. Some 34 years ago, I was invited to my wife’s family Passover. One month later, we were engaged. Let’s hope it happens to you.
You may also be interested in 7 Reasons To Be Thankful You Come From A Big, Crazy Jewish Family