Passover seder: How to be a good guest
April 12, 2019
(MyJewishLearning via JTA)—If you’ve never been to a Passover seder, you might be feeling a bit intimidated at the prospect. Relax. The seder is an opportunity for celebration, discussion and lots of tasty food. Here are some things to know before you go:
What should I wear?
People usually dress up a little for the seder, but it’s best to ask your host ahead of time, as seder attire can run the gamut from jeans and T-shirts to suit-and-tie. You’ll probably eat a lot, however, so don’t wear anything with a tight-fitting waist!
What should I bring?
Again, it’s best to ask the host ahead of time. If he or she requests food or wine, make sure to find out whether the family keeps kosher and how strictly they observe Passover dietary laws.
Even if your host does not keep kosher, you should avoid bringing baked goods, like breads or cakes, as these flout the tradition of avoiding leavened foods, unless the products are labeled kosher for Passover. Flowers are always a good option as well.
Is there a prayer service before the meal?
The seder, which commemorates the Israelites’ Exodus from slavery in Egypt (the first 15 chapters of Exodus), is a service of sorts, replete with blessings, rituals, songs and readings.
To get a better feel for what happens and in what order, we recommend you check out this article about the seder and this one about the Haggadah.
Will the seder be in Hebrew?
Some families do conduct the seder all in Hebrew, but many primarily stick to English, with the exception of reciting some prayers and blessings in Hebrew. To familiarize yourself with some of the Hebrew terms used throughout the seder, check out our Must-Know Passover Terms.
How long does the seder last?
Seder length varies even more than seder attire. Some families read every page of the Haggadah, the book that details all the Passover rituals, blessings and readings, along with all sorts of supplemental readings, while others do a very abbreviated version. That means the seder can range from under 30 minutes (followed by a leisurely meal) to literally all night.
Traditionally the seder has two parts: readings and rituals for before the meal is served, and readings and songs that follow the meal. However, many families—particularly those with small children—dispense with the second part and focus on the pre-meal rituals. You can ask your host to provide a ballpark estimate in advance.
Julie Wiener is managing editor of MyJewishLearning.