Hosting a Passover Seder? Use This Checklist to Prepare
Running your own seder for the first time, whether virtually or in person? There’s no need to be overwhelmed. Use this handy checklist to help you prepare.
Whether you’re connecting with loved ones who cannot be present with you physically or streaming a seder hosted by a congregation, or both, technology has never been more important to Jewish practice.
make sure your device is fully charged before the seder and, if possible, test your microphone, speakers, and webcam before the start of your seder – and if you have any cords, make sure they are positioned so you won’t trip on them!
Bring up the email with the login links or screennames of your seder companions so you have it ready to go.
Feather, wooden spoon, and paper bag
One of the many fun customs associated with Passover is searching for, collecting, and destroying any chametz (leavening or grain that ferments) in the house. Children are particularly enthusiastic about this “search and destroy” mission.
Look any place in the house where chametz was used during the year, or designate one family member to hide 10 pieces of chameitz (a kabbalistic tradition) throughout the house (just remember where you put them). Before the search, recite this blessing. Use the feather to sweep all the crumbs into the spoon and deposit them in the paper bag. The next morning, make one final search and then burn or discard the bag and its contents.
Prepare for the chameitz search by watching this Bimabam Video:
Put a pillow on each chair at the seder table to encourage everyone to comfortably recline during the seder. This custom is observed in the spirit of celebrating our freedom. Pillows also soften the impact of sitting for several hours on metal folding chairs.
Each person will need a Passover Haggadah to use during the seder. Most Reform Jewish Haggadot (plural of Haggadah) include egalitarian language and beautiful illustrations. Here are Haggadot ideas for seders hosting young children, including a few you can download right at home.
Three ceremonial pieces of matzah are placed in a special holder or on a plate for the seder, and the middle one is broken in half and used for the afikoman (“dessert”; the hidden matzah children search for at the end of the seder). Stack matzah on pretty plates or make a decorative matzah holder.
Three kiddush cups and wine glasses
Use kiddush cups for the seder leader, for the cup of Elijah, and for Miriam’s Cup, which honors Moses’ sister Miriam, who played a vital role in the history of our people. Pour wine for everyone else into regular wine glasses.
Candles and candlesticks
The blessing over the festival candles is recited as the seder begins. On the first night of Passover the Shehecheyanu is also recited.
The afikoman can be wrapped in a paper or cloth dinner napkin. A quick and inexpensive way to hide more than one afikoman for the kids (see below) is to use mailing envelopes with each child’s name written on the front.
Pitcher or two-handled cup, big bowl, and dish towel (or hand wipes)
These supplies are used for the ritual hand washing (and drying) during the seder. If you prefer, individual, premoistened towelettes, such as Wash ‘n Dries can be used.
For most kids, the seder’s high point is searching for the afikoman. Why not hide more than one afikoman and award fun prizes to every child at your seder? The prizes can be Passover candy, crafts or small toys, like scented markers, Legos, sculpting clay, travel-sized games, or joke books.
Ritual Foods and Drinks
Kosher-for-Passover wine and grape juice
During the seder, we drink wine in a formalized ritual. It is considered a mitzvah to drink four cups of wine at the seder. Grape juice may be substituted for wine. The kosher for Passover wine selection today is a far cry from the sweet red wines that were once a mainstay of Passover.
Regular matzot (plural of matzah) specially baked for Passover are widely available and are used at the seder and throughout the week of Passover. (While some stores have matzah available year-round, you do want to make sure your Passover matzah is marked as “kosher for Passover.” Any kosher for Passover matzah is fine – it doesn’t need to be fancy! Some families have a tradition of using shmurah, “guarded,” matzah for the seder, but this is entirely optional.)
Parsley, celery, or other greens (karpas)
Used to represent spring, the karpas is dipped into salt water to remember the Israelites’ tears. Some families follow the karpas ritual by serving a variety of vegetables and dips as a first course. Artichokes and other vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, and boiled potatoes may be introduced at this point in the seder.
This is the bitter herb eaten before the meal to remind us of the Israelites’ suffering as slaves. Use red or white horseradish for the meal, but raw horseradish root is more visual on the seder plate. Use this recipe for grating your own horseradish.
Shank bone or beet
A roasted shank bone (z’roa) is included on the seder plate to symbolize the festival offerings (chagigah) – including the first-born lamb sacrificed as the Passover offering – that were brought to the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. The lamb’s blood was smeared on the Israelites’ doorposts to protect them from the 10th plague – the death of the first-born. The bone is called zeroa (forearm) reminding us of God’s arm that stretched out to save us. Because many have not included lamb as a Passover dish since Talmudic times, many families use chicken or beef bones instead. Many supermarkets give these away at no cost at Passover. A beet, which “bleeds” when cut, may also be used and is a great substitute at a vegetarian seder.
Apples, nuts, raisins, cinnamon, and sweet red wine are ingredients you’ll need for an Ashkenazi-style charoset. Dried fruits are called for in many Sephardic charoset recipes, as well as in Israeli Charoset, Turkish Charoset, and Panamanian Jaroset. Or, try one of these international nut-free charoset recipes for something new.
- Many seder meals begin with hard-boiled eggs, and a roasted egg (beitzah) is included on the seder plate to symbolize the festival offerings (chagigah) that were brought to the ancient Temple. Eggs are also a sign of spring and the renewal of life at this season. For a vegan substitution, you can add a flower to your seder plate as a symbol of spring.
Many Jews include a whole orange on their seder plate to symbolize inclusiveness.
This ingredient is used to make the salt water for dipping, symbolizing the tears of the Israelites.
Clear plastic tablecloth protector
The sign of a spirited seder is spilled red wine! Use a washable tablecloth or a protective cover.
For those whose tradition includes serving hard boiled eggs, egg plates are widely available.
After the meal has been served, before you finish the seder, kids especially enjoy sweeping up the matzah crumbs.
Planning your seder dinner menu? Get recipes and cooking tips from a pro.