Every year for as long as I can remember, my family has hosted our friends for Passover, and the reason it became my absolute favorite holiday has nothing to do with the hours-long seder and everything to do with the search for the afikoman that commences immediately after.
At my house, hiding the afikoman never just meant taping it under a dining room chair when no one was looking. My dad begins orchestrating our afikoman hunts weeks in advance. Our hunts involve teams, several secret locations, a series of interactive clues, and a ticking clock — essentially, a scavenger hunt on steroids. And they have only gotten more elaborate every year.
After the seder, the second the last person finishes their food and the table is cleared, my dad pulls out two crisp envelopes and divides the kid’s table (not really comprised of kids anymore) into two groups: Team Blue and Team Red. Hyped up on haroset and adrenaline, each team stakes a corner of the house and rips open their envelope to find the first clue that needs to be solved. Each answer to the clue reveals the location of the next clue and they get increasingly harder.
At first, my dad limited the chase to our house. In recent years, he expanded it to the whole neighborhood and has actually recruited the help of nearby stores and businesses. I’ll never forget the Passover when my team sprinted into the 7-Eleven down the street, five kids in dresses and dress pants next to a biker smoking a cigarette at 10 p.m., as the confused cashier handed us a blue-marked envelope. Or the time we had to call a phone number to get an automated voice message reciting exact geographic coordinates which sent us searching an abandoned middle school with flashlights for an hour. Two years ago, my friend literally brought socks and tennis shoes to our seder to change out of her heels before the hunt began because she “knew there’d be running.”
Suffice to say, the hunts are epic. So last year, when it became clear that a pandemic Passover meant reimagining the holiday over Zoom, I was crushed. My favorite holiday and my precious tradition as I knew them were canceled. But a night that was destined to depress me actually turned out to be one of my favorite memories of 2020, when my dad surprised everyone with a virtual afikoman hunt.
More people than ever before participated in this afikoman hunt. Having it online meant my sister and our cousins in Israel could play along. This was the first year that we could actually include our extended family, as well as our friends, in our cherished ritual. And some of them shared it with their friends. So our family, our friends, our family friends, and a few strangers were all connected, simultaneously working on this hunt. The competition was higher than ever. The whole thing from start to finish took me around three hours to crack, even with enlisting help from friends. I didn’t win, but honestly, it doesn’t even matter.
“Celebrating” holidays right now sucks. That’s the reality of celebrations during the pandemic. But it can suck a little bit less if we’re willing to get a little bit more creative. So I encourage people to find ways to preserve their past Passover traditions, even if they have to look a little differently this year. And maybe this year, a virtual afikoman hunt is just the thing you didn’t know you were looking for.
Without further ado, here are 10 tips and tricks for creating your own virtual afikoman hunt:
- Find a free host website (like Google Sites) to create the web pages that house the actual scavenger hunt. Each web page should display a clue that, when solved, results in a direct link or directions to the next webpage.
- Customize the difficulty/nature of the clues for the age group you’re designing this hunt for. This game has grown up with my friends and I. It’s possible to make it fun and challenging for young kids all the way to teens and adults.
- Have a scavenger hunt group chat where you can send out the first link/clue, give out hints, and have participants communicate with each other.
- Incorporate Passover/Jewish related trivia! Clues can test participants’ knowledge on everything from the 10 Plagues to the Four Questions to the components of the seder plate.
- Make use of a variety of different clues. These can be any kind of brain teasers that, when solved, take participants to the location of the next clue. Some good examples include riddles, rebus puzzles, pattern guessing games, math/logic problems, anagrams, and ciphers.
- Personalize the clues and answers to you and your players. Incorporate inside jokes, favorite memories from past Passovers, photos — anything that connects everyone.
- Think up hints for each clue before the game in case your participants get stumped. You want the hints to help without giving the whole thing away.
- Have someone go over the scavenger hunt and attempt to solve it before your participants play it in order to work out kinks and ensure it’s doable.
- The last clue should take participants to a webpage with some version of “Congratulations!” and a picture of an afikoman. The winner can take a picture of this page and send it in the group chat to declare they found the afikoman first.
- You can attach some sort of prize to the game but let’s be real, the experience is a prize in and of itself.
Happy Passover! And may the best afikoman win!