USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Afikomen’
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The Cremer Family’s Passover Afikomen Tradition

Background: I had approached Hannah about telling me about her family Passover tradition that she had fleetingly mentioned at Shabbat Dinner at Hillel at the University of Southern California. She had talked about a hazelnut game for children during Passover that is unique to her family. Hannah goes to her grandparent’s house for the first night of Passover and celebrates the second night at her great-aunt’s house. She is from Illinois.

Context: I interviewed Hannah in the dining room of our sorority house, Delta Delta Delta. It was right after dinner so the dining room was full of people with coffee or tea chatting in the background of our conversation. After Hannah shared her family tradition of the hazelnut game (published under the title “The Cremer Family’s Passover Hazelnut Game”) I asked her if her family has any other family traditions for Passover. She then shared the tradition of individual afikomen.

“We all have our own afikomen. I don’t know when it… as long as I can remember there is always an afikomen for everyone to find. So like all the grandchildren have their own. Currently there are 9 different afikomen hidden with our names on them. They’re wrapped and we always get a $2 bill. That’s our gift for finding the afikomen. It’s wrapped in a napkin that has your name on it. My grandpa gives us $2 bills as the prize. I’m not sure who started this tradition. I doubt that it comes from my great grandfather. My grandparents hide the afikomen for us to find before we all come to dinner. If you find someone else’s you’re expected to put it back where you found it or pretend like you didn’t see it.”

Customs
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Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Jewish Easter Egg Hunt

“So, in my family, holidays are a big deal, and we are not very religious one way or another, but we do, um, partake in several, I guess, Christian holidays, and Easter is one of the big ones. Um, however, we have this Jewish friend, who, um, had never experienced Easter before, um, and so, she, we decided to invite her to Easter one year so she could experience her first ever Easter and so she came over and um, we did the typical things like dyeing Easter eggs and having Easter dinner. But, we decided to twist our traditions to uh accommodate for her Jewishisms. So she told us about this tradition she used to practice as a child. It’s like this little stale piece of bread, it’s like matzah, and you hide it. She used to do this as a child. It’s called the afikomen. So, yea, I guess it’s a Jewish tradition to hide the matzah and be like, hey, kids, go find the afikomen. And whichever little Jewish lad finds the afikomen gets a reward.

So then, we decided to kind of mix the two traditions because finding an afikomen is very much like finding an Easter egg, so, um, my parents, along with hundreds of Easter eggs, hid an afikomen, and whoever found it got twenty dollars. We, of course, all expected the Jew to find the afikomen, but the first time it was my brother, a non-Jew, who found it. So now we do this every year… we hide an afikomen with the Easter eggs.”

 

The informant’s conflation of two different religions’ traditions is an interesting example of how folkloric traditions can blend together and change. The informant’s family found a common thread between the traditional Christian practice of hunting for hidden eggs on Easter and the traditional Jewish practice of hiding and finding a piece of matzah on Passover. In an effort to make their Jewish friend more comfortable and to learn about Jewish culture, the informant’s family blended together these two traditions.

However, the informant’s family took the search for the afikomen out of context. Traditionally, the children search for the afikomen at a Passover seder, and there are multiple reasons and explanations for this practice. Some say that the tradition of hiding and searching for the afikomen is an effort to keep the children awake throughout the seder, which can be a very long, traditional meal, sometimes lasting for hours. Searching for the afikomen can keep the kids occupied while the adults conduct the seder. Another explanation for the purpose of the afikomen is that seeking the matzah symbolizes future redemption for the Jewish people. However, in the case of the Jewish Easter egg hunt, the afikomen is used merely as a symbolic gesture— a lone Jewish artifact hidden among plastic Christian relics, but, ultimately, meant to serve the same purpose as the Easter eggs (you find something and you are rewarded for it.)

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