Tag Archives: passover

A Unique Passover Tradition

Background Information: 

The informant is a friend of mine. They have been born and raised in Southern California, but his family has familial roots in Israel and Morocco. Their grandmother emigrated from Morocco to the US. 

Main Content: 

ME: So can you tell me about your family’s unique Passover tradition? 

YS: So during Passover dinner, we leave an extra table, or not an extra table, an extra chair, at our dinner table and we leave the front door open when we do the Haggadah, which when you tell stories. And we use the extra chair as a way to signify our dead family members being there with us. So whenever, we like pray, at that time at the table, we like bless our dead family members.

ME: That’s really cool, is it a common tradition or is it just something that your family does?

YS: I’m pretty sure its just my family, my grandma like grew up doing it and taught is to do it too. 

ME: Do you believe that the spirits are really there or is it more just for symbolism?

YS: Yeah, we believe that the spirits are really there. One year, when I was younger, there was like wind happening and our door like flew open and it was really windy in the house. My grandma told us, “That’s my husband!”.

ME: Wow, really crazy, thank you. 


This interview happened at my apartment. 


This tradition is really interesting because it takes a formal religious tradition like Passover, and adds its own touch to it. It is even more interesting because the informant’s family actually experienced the ghost or spirit of the informant’s grandmother’s deceased husband, which really cemented their belief in the tradition. The informant told me that their grandmother grew up practicing this tradition in Morocco, before she moved to the US. I am not sure if this is widely practiced in Morocco or not, but my informant claims that it isn’t. Regardless, I think that this is a really great way to honor dead family members and still feel a connection with them, and even physically interact with them, as in the case of the informant. 

Afikoman with a twist

Background: Informant is a 19 year old, Jewish American/Argentinian college student. They are from the Chicago area but now live in Los Angeles. The informant has a family tradition during the holiday of passover that inverts the common tradition of many other Jewish people. 

Informant: So, during passover (the Jewish holiday), there’s a tradition that most families do where the parents have to hide the Afikoman which is a little piece of matzah, an the kids have to find it and whichever kid finds it gets a special prize. But in my family we do the opposite. So, the kids have to hide the Afikoman and it’s my dad’s job to go look for it and find it. But the tradition and the joke is that he doesn’t get up from the Seder table, he sits in his chair when it’s time to go look for it and bribes us with money to tell him where it is. And that’s the kids prize it’s not like, you get a prize for finding it; you get a prize for revealing to him where it is. So for example he’ll be like, “5 dollars.” And we’re like, no that’s not enough cause’ it’s a really good hiding place. And he’s like, “10 dollars.” And then we always, like, talk him up and negotiate to like, 25 bucks. And this is without him getting up from the table to even look for it. 

Reflection: This story came from the informants family flipping a traditional Jewish tradition on it’s head. In Jewish tradition, looking for the Afikoman is something that kids do in the ages before 13, so having the parent who is an adult search is a funny twist on it. Beyond that, there is an aspect of the tradition that is capitalistic as the kids are putting monetary value on the hiding place of the matzah, focusing on how they can bargain with the adult to receive the most money. This reflects an American twist on a Jewish tradition, as it adds American values of capital and money into Jewish culture.


“My family does this thing called ‘Dayenu.’ So whenever I go to my grandmother’s for Passover she hands us each a stalk of Leek or green onion. After we each receive one we hit each other over the head with it.  I’m not sure if other people do this but it symbolizes the Jews leaving Egypt for us. It also symbolizes that when he hit each other we’re not supposed to think about the slaves in Egypt. My grandma requires this every year before we eat.”


Dayenu has other names in different regions but is mainly practiced in the Jewish community in Iran and Afghanistan. The informant learned of this story from their grandmother during the Passover feast as a kid. I enjoyed learning about it but the informant said he thinks it’s odd and doesn’t feel good because sometimes the younger family members will hit hard on purpose. 


I can see where getting hit over the head with a vegetable can hurt. The informant and I both agree that having a  meaningful tradition like this keeps the family close and beliefs going. I think it is awesome that this tradition has been carried on for so many years.

Sephardi and Persian Seder Traditions

Sephardi and Persian Seder Traditions:

Main description:

AB: “What kind of Jewish traditions can you tell me about?”

AA: “Ok well we always go to our family friends house for Passover Seder and one tradition Sephardi and Persian Jews have is to run around and hit each other with celery or large green onions during the song dayenu, which is about liberation from slavery and appreciation or gratitude. And some people think the hitting with celery is to symbolize slavery and whipping but it’s become a fun thing and I think it’s more about celebrating liberation from many things.”

Informant’s interpretation:

AB: “How do you see this tradition? What does it mean to you?”

AA: “It feels more celebratory to me. As a kid, I used to think of it as a game and as I’ve gotten older it’s fun to revisit that inner child. And I think perhaps more importantly it feels like physically letting go and like a physical manifestation of liberation—not necessarily from slavery, but from oppression, harmful thought patterns etc. Passover in general is about escaping a “narrow place” and to me it’s a way to communally perform that liberation and also to acknowledge what oppressive systems exist now and how can we escape them or help others escape them if that makes sense. In short, I love the vegetable violence thing.”

Personal interpretation:

Freedom and liberation appear central to this tradition. The informant notes that the tradition itself mimics the violence of slavery but emphasizes that it’s a celebratory tradition rather than a mournful one. By mimicking slavery in a harmless way, those who practice the tradition can call upon a shared past of oppression and celebrate survival rather than mourning what was lost.

Afikoman: Jewish Holiday Folk Game

Context: AW sits with her daughter preparing for the second night of her Passover Seder, the room is bustling with activity as people get food prepared for AW’s many relatives. AW’s Daughter chimes in every so often to ask questions
MW: So what do you know about the Afikoman?
AW: The Matzah, the bread we eat during Passover, because it represents the fact that when the jews had to flee Egypt and slavery. They left in such haste that the bread did not have a chance to rise, that’s why we have matzah.
AW: So, we eat the matzah all week so that we remember what happened to us, and during the seder…the person that leads the seder
[AW flips through her Passover Haggadah]
AW: explains to everyone…REMINDS not explains, what the bread means to us as a people
AW: they break it in half, one half to be eaten, and the other to be set aside for later. Traditionally that half is hidden by the oldest person at the seder for the children to find after the festival meal.

MW: Do you have any, like, special house rules?
AW: So we make rules, first the Afikoman has to be hidden in the house. Depending on the age of the children, if they’re very young it has to be in one specific room in the house to make it easier for them to find it. If they’re older it’s anywhere downstairs. It’s usually hidden by the person who led the seder.

MW: Ok
AW: Someone says “on your mark get set, go” and the kids race to find it, if there are young kids we hide it again so all the kids get a chance to find it.

MW: So what does the Afikoman mean to you?
AW: It’s just part of the festival, it’s nice, you know what it’s nice because I remember the nights where we were all to grown up to do it. So it’s comforting to see the next generation carrying on our traditions.

The Afikoman is wrapped which serves the practical purpose of keeping it, a dessert item, separated from the rest of the food. But the wrapping also serves a symbolic role as mimicking the way Ancient Jews would have wrapped their matzah as they fled Egypt. This mimicking is key to the overarching theme of Passover, that all Jews see themselves as having been liberated from Egypt, not just their ancestors. So in repeating the wrapping behavior modern Jews inhabit the role of their ancestors. The Talmud, a commentary on the Torah states that “We snatch matzahs on the night of Passover in order that the children should not fall asleep.” Thus, Afikomen hunting becomes a way to engage children with short attention spans during what is a fairly long religious event.
Likewise, the matzah is split in half during the seder. This might represent the delayed nature of Jewish salvation, the matzah eaten during the Seder representing the exodus itself, while the Afikomen matzah, hidden away and eaten only after the Seder ends, represents either the Mosciach, or Messiah’s final redemption of the Jewish people, or perhaps their eventual return to their homeland Israel after 40 years in the desert. For alternate uses of the Afikoman in Jewish households as a pendant for blessing see What Makes a Jewish Home Jewish

Ochs, Vennessa. “What Makes A Jewish Home Jewish?” What Makes a Jewish Home Jewish?, an Article by Vanessa Ochs, in Cross Currents, the Quarterly Journal of Opinion Covering Religion and the World., www.crosscurrents.org/ochsv.htm.