Passover is a holiday of tradition. The centerpiece, the seder dinner, is a structured event, made up of dozens of small traditions that we repeat and build on every year. But they’re not so rigid that we can’t mold them to include our own customs. At my grandparents’ house growing up, it was the way we found and redeemed the afikomen, or how we blurted out the last verse of “Who Knows One?” in one breath, or my grandmother’s signature eggplant dish, which for me meant Passover as much as any shank bone or Elijiah’s cup.
Sarah and I have now enjoyed four Passovers together, and each year is another chance to learn each other’s traditions and make them part of our own. At her parents’ house, there’s the yearly inscribing of the haggadahs, and then opening them up a year or two or four later and reading touching or funny or ironicly appropriate inscriptions. There’s the ritual hand-washing, with Sarah’s mom walking around with a basin and a pitcher of water, requiring you to wash your hands on the right, but get them dried by the person to your left. And then, there’s the singing.
Oh boy do they love to sing. In English, in Heberew, in Yiddish. At the seders I went to growing up, there was singing, but only at the end, mostly in English, and kept to a few common ditties. At Sarah’s house, it’s all they can do to not sing every piece of haggadah text. And I truly find it a very lovely thing, but due to some down-deep emotional quirk of mine, I clam up when it happens. I just can’t deal with the singing. As the years have gone on, I’ve gotten better at handling it, but there’s a point near the end of the seder, every year, when I gently excuse myself from the chorus, head upstairs, and relax for the final two or three or seven remaining songs.
I like to think of it as my own special holiday tradition. Years from now, when we’re old and looking back at the Passovers of the early 2000s, we’ll think, it wouldn’t have seemed like Passover without it.