USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘passover’
Childhood
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Cremer Family’s Passover Hazelnut Game

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-aunts house. She is from Illinois.

Context: I interviewed Hannah in the dining room of our sorority house, Delta Delta Delta. It was right after dinnertime so the dining room was full of people with coffee or tea chatting in the background of our conversation.

“Basically it’s kind of like marbles but we play with hazelnuts and my great-grandfather came up with it. We play with shelled hazelnuts. Everyone sits in a circle and you have your own little pile of hazelnuts which are like the ammo and in the center they spread them out, like a dozen or whatever, and then the kids all go around and take a turn throwing one of their hazelnuts from their personal pile at the ones in the center. If you hit one in the center then you get a quarter. Then as the game progresses there are stacks of quarters with a hazelnut on top that are in the center which are the jackpot pieces. When you hit the hazelnut off the stack of quarters, then you get the hazelnut plus the whole stack. So it’s pretty fun, I don’t know. You play it until you’re at bar or bat mitzvah age and then my grandpa is always the one that runs it all. His grandfather was the one that came up with the game. So we’ve been playing it for a really long time with the exact same hazelnuts. I don’t know how they’ve lasted this long, they’re 60 years old. It’s so gross. I was the only granddaughter until I was 12 so I always got some extra quarters tossed my way. It was always a fun game. When you’re a little kid, the Passover seder is so long to sit through. We would play the game right before dessert. So after the seder and dinner- it was something to look forward to. We always played on the basement floor of my grandparents house. It’s really bizarre. My great grandparents were born in Odessa, Russia. My grandparents were born here. My grandpa learned it from his father. I think it’s important to my grandpa that we keep playing this game. All the hazelnuts are the original hazelnuts, we don’t replace them with any new ones. My dad’s whole side of the family is Eastern-European and came to the US around the early 1900s. I didn’t know that other people didn’t play this game until I was pretty old. I truly had no idea, I thought everyone played this.”

Reflection: I am Jewish and grew up in Los Angeles going to Jewish day school. I have never heard of a tradition like this one, from my friends or family.

Childhood
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

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.”

Foodways
general
Holidays

Hanish Family Gefilte Fish Tradition

Background: Lila is my best friend from high school. She has a tradition with her dad, Jon, and her younger sister, Sydney, to hand make apple pies for Thanksgiving together. They also have a tradition of making gefilte fish together for Passover in the springtime.

 

Context: I called Lila over FaceTime because she attends Drexel University in Philadelphia. I recorded our conversation and transcribed it below. She described this gefilte fish tradition in succession to her family’s pie tradition, published under the title “Hanish Family Pie Tradition”.

 

“So I feel like it’s pretty similar to our apple pie thing for our family. Every year my family hosts the Passover seder. We do all the cooking. It’s been a tradition for as long as I can remember that we make the gefilte fish with my dad. I feel like my dad really values having these little traditions with us that he can count on even as we get older. The apple pies and the gefilte fish. It’s honestly super disgusting and I hate it, but it’s just something we do every year so I’ve learned to deal with it. This one we have friends over for less, because friends don’t often want to rub their different fishes together with their bare hands, you know? There is something satisfying about it in a certain way.. that makes me sound so weird and creepy wow.”

 

I then asked Lila if she could elaborate on what gefilte fish is. This was her response.


“It’s like a traditional Passover, Jewish food. It’s Ashkenazi, I think. It looks like a matzah ball but it tastes like fishy fish. When we first started I think my dad got the different types of fish. But now he goes to a butcher that gives him the combination of the fish. We only make it for passover. We would NEVER make it any other time of year. That’s just gross and weird. My mom will do most of the other cooking for the seder, but this is the thing that the three of us take care of. It’s always on the first night, never second night, always first night. This tradition originated with my dad, I know he didn’t do this with his family growing up.”

 

general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Moroccan Jewish Passover Custom

Background: Leigh comes from a Moroccan Jewish family. Her experience with these Passover traditions have been with her mom and grandparents. 

Context: I interviewed Leigh in person and recorded our conversation on my phone. Her comments below are what I transcribed out of our conversation. She described the mimouna (pronounced mee-moo-nah) Passover ritual, which she had previously mentioned at the same time as the henna wedding ritual (published under the title “Moroccan Wedding Tradition”). 

 

“Basically the mimouna is when you break the Passover fast of not eating leavened bread with very decadent festivities. Very decadent sugary desserts, lots of marzipan. There’s something called a mufleta*, which is basically a Moroccan crepe that you fill with all sorts of things like honey, or nutella, you know..butter, bunch of other stuff, sugar. My favorite memory is actually when we were a lot younger and in my grandparents’ old apartment, I think right around the time of my aunt’s wedding, my grandma would prepare these very intricate handmade marzipan desserts that resembled exotic fruits and sugar cookies and all this stuff, which to be honest I don’t love the flavor of but they’re exquisite to look at. She has a whole Moroccan cookbook and I know she sent recipes to that same aunt that got married all those years ago. They’re very beautiful. I learned this tradition from my mom and my grandparents. The set-up is kind of different everywhere you go. My mom was more focused on getting us around the actual frying pan to see her make the mufleta, and also so we could just have them fresh off the press. At my grandparents house, where it was more of an ordeal they would stack up all of these like Moroccan crepes on a plate like a mountain, then you had your assortment of jams and butter and chocolate. In Israel they would serve this kosher chocolate spread called “Shachar” brand but in the States at our house we would eat Nutella. In Israel it was mostly honey and butter, jelly would be kind of apricot, orange marmalade.”

*mufleta- pronounced moof-leh-tah

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Modern Passover dinner

I asked a fellow classmate if he partook in any traditions regarding a specific holiday, and the conversation was led to the topic of food:

“Every year at Passover dinner my family and I eat the same food. There will always be a traditional Seder plate which will have around 5 or 6 items on it like bitter herbs, egg, and some sort of vegetable. My Nana will also always make her homemade brisket which is what her and her parents did for Passover in Romania where she’s from. And we always have Matzah Ball soup too.”

I then asked how long this tradition has been in his life and where it started in his family:

“I have had this meal on Passover since the first Passover I can remember. And my Nana is the one who brought it to our family.“

 

Background Information: Matthew is a 19-year old male born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. Both of his parents are Jewish.

Context: Matthew shared this story with me in a conversation about holiday traditions with our families over coffee.

Analysis: Growing up in a Christian home, it was very interesting to gain an understanding of a cultural tradition, that for me, is unfamiliar and never personally experienced. It led me to think about my own traditions with reference to food and the meals my family will consistently have year after year for specific holidays or events. Attached is a picture the actual Seder plate Matthew’s family provided at Passover dinner this year (2018).

 

The seder plate at Passover dinner this year (2018)

The seder plate at Passover dinner this year (2018)

For more information of a traditional Seder plate served at Passover : https://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/1998/jewish/The-Seder-Plate.htm

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Non-Traditional Passover Traditions

The source describes how his family’s Passover traditions are non-traditional:

Passover is really fun at my mom’s house. And I didn’t realize how unorthodox it was until one year we went over to my aunt’s place for Passover and she’s a lot more religious. She was really strict and me and my sister got in an argument with her.  

What do you do for Passover that’s unorthodox?

Well we don’t read an actual Haggadah [the Haggadah is a Jewish which sets forth the order of the Passover Seder], we read a children’s picture book.

And the adults usually don’t drink wine or they only have one glass. But my favorite part is that we play a game where you throw mashed potatoes at the front door with a spoon. It’s based on marking the doors of the Israelites with blood. But our version is a lot more fun and more P.G. 

Is the Seder kosher?

Yes, we make sure the Seder is kosher, but my family doesn’t keep kosher most of the time. Only on holidays.

Holidays
Humor
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Leaving a Place for Elijah

The source is an Israeli Microsoft employee describing a prank he pulled on his children on Passover.

Well, as you may know for Passover Seder, we set an extra place at the table for the Profit Elijah. The tradition normally is that we pour a cup of wine for the profit and the husband of the household open the door for him. Of course, the seat remains empty and the wine full. And many parents know you can have some fun with young children, who of course are watching the Elijah’s Cup intently, by knocking the table when they’re not looking so that some of the wine spills out and it appear that the cup is drunk. When they’re older maybe they don’t fall for this.

Anyway, last year we had the idea to take that one step further and I asked my friend from work Farhan to help me with a prank. He’s Zoroastrian so he’s not doing anything that night. So this Seder we set a place for Elijah like normal; we pour the wine like normal. My children are nine and thirteen so they don’t take the whole thing too seriously anymore; they know the trick of knocking the table and spilling the wine; you know, they’re too wise to fall for that anymore.

Well this year we start eating and suddenly a bearded olive-skinned man in a tunic walks in the front door, comes to Elijah’s place, drinks the wine, and walks out again without saying anything. My kids drop to the floor and they say, “who was that, Dad.”

And I say very casually, “That’s Eliyahu [Elijah].”

To this day I won’t tell them that it was really my friend Farhan.

Customs
Holidays
Humor
Musical

There’s No Seder Like our Seder

Informant is grandmother, currently living in Florida having lived most of her life in New Jersey. The following is printed on a series of old, twice-photocopied documents which she stores in a closet in a large bin. These are a familiar sight for the family during Passover, in which the entirety of the song is sung together before beginning with the dinner service.

 

There’s No Seder Like our Seder

(sung to the tune of “There’s no Business like Show business”)

There’s no seder like our seder,

There’s no seder I know.

Everything about it is Halachic

nothing that the Torah won’t allow.

Listen how we read the whole Haggadah

It’s all in Hebrew

‘Cause we know how.

There’s no Seder like our seder,

We tell a tale that is swell:

Moses took the people out into the heat

They baked the matzoh

While on their feet

Now isn’t that a story

That just can’t be beat?

Let’s go on with the show!

 

Of course this song is not traditional jewish canon, as it’s inspired by the song “There’s no Business like Show business.” Somewhere down the line, at a time she does not remember, these papers were copied and it was decided to sing it before opening the Hagaddah (Passover prayerbook read at dinner). I think this song, to her, is a fun family activity which gets all ages singing together and warmed up for the night.

Customs
Foodways
general
Material

Matzo Ball Soup Recipe

Informant is grandmother, currently living in Florida having lived most of her life in New Jersey. The following is a family recipe for Matzo Ball Soup which is a traditionally jewish dish served at Passover.

 

Ingredients (taken down from a handwritten note in the recipe book):

4 large eggs

•¼ cup “schmaltz” rendered chicken fat or coconut oil

•¼ cup chicken stock

•1 cup matzo meal

•¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

•1 to 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger

•2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

•1 teaspoon Allspice

 

Directions (spoken to me in the kitchen as she prepares to make the soup):

“In a big bowl, put the eggs, schmaltz, chicken stock, matzo, nutmeg, ginger and parsley. Put in 1 teaspoon salt and Allspice. Mix a little with a spoon, and cover. And refrigerate until chilled. I do it overnight.”

“Put the matzo balls in a pan like this (she holds up a medium sized, deep pan) with salted water and boil. With wet hands— they have to be wet— take some of the mix and mold it into the size of a golfball. Put them in boiling water and leave it for about 40 minutes. Then you put them in the soup, that’s it!”

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Passover Dinner

Main Piece: Passover Dinner

 

I personally am not Jewish, but I had the opportunity to attend a Passover dinner at my friend Sam’s house this year with their family. We ate a lot of different foods traditionally associated with Passover. There was brisket, matzo ball soup, Gefilte fish, and a sweet matzo kugel. The matzo kugel was something new to me, so I asked about it specifically.

My friends mother told me that Kugel is a Yiddish term stemming from Germany. German Jews would mix flour, water, and apples, that created a sweet matzo-like dessert. This is a dish traditionally served in the family as a savory dessert that has a historical context to it. It consisted of Granny-Smith apples, cinnamon, sugar, butter, and matzo.

 

Background:

 

My friend told me this is a dish that has been in his family for many generations, being passed down to his mother by her mother, and to her by her mother, and so on. Matzo itself is a traditional dish in the Jewish tradition. It stems from the Jewish diaspora from Egypt, when all they had was flour and water (no yeast), which resulted in the matzo bread being flat, since it could not rise.

They liked this recipe because not only is it delicious, but it has cultural significance and is more of a delicacy made for special occasions. It isn’t just prepared for your everyday meal, and that gives you a way to make a meal special in that sense.

 

Context:

 

Passover is a celebration of their liberation by God from slavery in Egypt. It commemorates the Exodus, and lasts for seven or eight days depending on the specific religion, during the Hebrew month of Nisan. Matzo is a big part of the meal, as it is derived from the event that is being celebrated during this holiday. This is why a majority of the dishes consist of matzo, and it has a certain level of historical context to being so prominent in the celebration.

Traditionally throughout the week of Passover, Jews are not supposed to consume yeast, and only matzo, to pay homage to the religion and its history. Because this is such an important holiday in the tradition, matzo kugel is prepared for this special occasion.

 

My thoughts:

 

Personally I am not a fan of fruity desserts, I think desserts should be something along the lines of ice cream or cake. I still tried it out of respect and although it was not my favorite, I could tell it was a delicacy in my friends household, as everyone got excited once it became time for dessert.

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