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Come Party With Me: Passover - Part 1

Next Monday night marks the first night of the eight day Jewish celebration, Passover (or Pesach as it is referred to in Hebrew). The traditional dinner known as the Seder usually takes place the first two evenings. DearSugar's lovely mom gave me a crash course in the strictly followed rules of the feast which celebrates the Exodus and freedom of the Israelite Jews from ancient Egypt. The Seder is similar to Thanksgiving with its importance of family custom and generations of tradition and one is supposed to walk away feeling as if they've been brought out of bondage and into freedom. Eating leavened foods (those that contain yeast or baking soda) is severely forbidden while foods that represent the bounty of spring (lamb, herbs, wine, egg, fruit, nuts, honey) are considered sacred. The meal begins with a reading from the Haggadah which is the narration of the Exodus and continues with the Seder plate. To see my invitation suggestions and the significance of each portion of the Seder,

When I think of Passover I picture the clean color combination of royal blue and white. I would make stark invites on either white or blue cardstock with a simple text along the following lines:

Miss PartySugar requests your presence at a traditional dinner to observe the Seder and the first night of Passover
Monday, April 2
7 o'clock pm
PartySugar's House, San Francisco
RSVP 415.555.5555

Send the invites in a dark blue envelope with the guests names written in metallic silver handwriting. I know it may be a little late to send a formal invitation through the mail and I would call each of your guests to personally request their attendance at your Seder. As the event falls on a Monday night, last minute invites are okay because rarely do people make important Monday evening plans. Make the conversation short and sweet by saying: Hi! This is PartySugar and I'm calling to see if you have dinner plans for next Monday night, April 2. I would love for you to join me in my celebration of Passover at 7 o'clock.

Understanding the Seder plate and the order in which the various dishes are consumed is essential to a successful and customary meal. Here is what each of the items signify:

Zeroa: The shank bone of a lamb. In ancient times lambs were sacrificed; the bone is a symbol of struggle and liberation -- that sacrifice is frequently the price of freedom.

Beitzah: The roasted egg, an additional temple sacrifice but it also symbolizes renewal and the cycle of life.

Matzo: The bread of haste at the beginning of the journey. Because there was no time to let it rise, it remains inert -- the essence of bread in its purest form.

Maror: Bitter herbs -- the sorrow of slavery. When one bites into horseradish or the more authentic rue, wormwood or chicory, tears spring to one's eyes. Piercy recommends a Passover salad of bitter greens such as arugula, chicory and endive.

Karpas: A vegetable, usually parsley, which represents spring and the seasons of the year and of life.

Charoset: Not originally part of the Passover plate, this chunky mixture of fruit, nuts and sweet wine was added later by rabbis who wanted something sweet to offset bitter herbs and also as a symbol of freedom.

How do you celebrate the Seder? Please share your family's traditions below. Tomorrow I'll be talking about the quintessential Passover meal so be sure to check back for the recipes.

Source: Pesach for the Rest of Us by Marge Piercy

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