Passover is objectively the worst Jewish holiday. The food is necessarily rubbish, the seder is hella long and boring, it inspires the very worst family arguments, and if you live outside of Israel, you have to sit through it twice.
Before I go on, I am being forced to include a disclaimer here that some people out there may like, even love, Passover. Those people are wrong, but there, you are seen. Moving on.
With most other holidays, regardless of your daily religious habits, you can always be coaxed home with the promise of a delicious treat. On Shavuot, it is my right, nay my obligation, to stuff my face with cheesecake and blintzes. On Rosh Hashanah, not only is there platter upon platter of beautiful, exotic fruit, but we are also required to dip everything in honey.
On Passover, however, we’re required to come home early to help throw away all the best and most delicious things in the kitchen, after which follows eight days of buttered crackers, crackers in soup, soggy cracker pizza and — perhaps the worst culinary sin — crackers soaked in milk, fried and eaten for breakfast. I’m sorry, but no amount of cinnamon and sugar is going to convince me that matzah brei tastes anything like French toast. It’s soggy fried crackers, guys. Why are we doing that??
On the dreaded seder night itself, you have to sit through a bunch of chat about a bunch of old rabbis talking about whether one is actually five, or if it’s in fact 10, before you can even think about eating. And then, when you do get to eat, it’s a piece of parsley dipped in salt water that is literally meant to taste like tears. The second thing you get to eat is a piece of horseradish, which is so awful we make a game in our family of seeing who can withstand keeping it in their mouths the longest. When the first course is finally presented, it’s a boiled egg in salt water. Honestly, anyone not Jewish reading this would think I was making this up for kicks.
Ooh, but there’s alcohol! Lots of alcohol! That sounds nice. How are we going to ruin that? How about you have to down four glasses of wine throughout the evening, the first two before you’ve even eaten your soggy parsley. I’m getting flashes of Bruce Bogtrotter being force-fed an entire chocolate cake. Also, I know the kosher wine game has gotten a lot stronger over the past few years, but tradition is tradition, and in my house, we drink sweet syrupy wine which has the unique feature of giving you a hangover while you’re still drinking it.
And what gets paired with four cups of wine? The very worst and more bizarre family arguments. Maybe it’s because we’ve been drinking on an empty stomach, maybe it’s the ancient, collective trauma of having to leave Egypt in such a hurry, maybe it’s because some people disagree over whether it’s an especially good time for a sibling to take hallucinogens when they’re literally leading the seder. Who can say?
As for the seder itself, it’s supposed to be the retelling of the Exodus, but instead, it’s a weird mishmash of random conversations had over a thousand years ago, with a bunch of songs thrown in for good measure. Sure, there are loads of questions which are supposed to spark interesting and diverse discussion, but it’s more like talking to a stoned 10-year-old: “Why is this night different from all other nights, you ask? Because on this night we lean.” What are you talking about? I totally get that a lot of it is fun for the kids, but once you’ve aged out of hiding the afikomen and greeting your imaginary friend Elijah at the door, the best part of the whole night (aside from dinner) is getting to dip your finger in your wine glass, and even that’s ruined by the remembrance of the Egyptian massacre.
(Plus, there is always that one person, who should know better because they too have endured year after year of seders, who decides they’re going to take it really seriously this year. They’ve prepared a bunch of “interesting points” to add to the discussion, like, “What is the meaning of the mnemonic of the plagues?” or, “Why are we so mean to the evil son?” This person is your enemy and thinks keeping the seder going well past midnight makes it the best seder ever. You must crush that person however you see fit.)
And then there’s the gigantic cherry on the already toppling sundae: If you live outside of Israel, you have to sit through it twice. I so enjoyed watching my sister-in-law 10 minutes into the second night of her first Passover, having been a good and curious guest the night before, suddenly realizing it was exactly the same, and she was going to have to do it all over again. Suffice to say, she came over with a sudden headache and had to be excused.
At least after the second seder is done, you can go back to your regularly scheduled programming, right? Wrong. At least if you’re the kind of person who fully observes Passover, it’s cracker pizza and soggy fried crackers for the entire week.
So now that we can all agree Passover is the living worst, let’s talk about why we have to do it anyway, aside from the fact your mother is making you.
Passover is an immersive experience. Unlike the other holidays, it takes a lot of prep, a lot of forethought. And it’s something we all have to go through together, much like (see where I’m going with this?) the exodus from Egypt!
The holiday’s tagline is “Once we were slaves, now we’re free,” and we’re supposed to relive that emotional and physical journey every year by simply telling the story. But honestly, comparing ourselves to slaves escaping into the cruel desert landscape, when most of us are wearing our fanciest outfits and sipping wine (granted, disgusting wine), feels like an epic stretch.
Instead, let us consider Passover to be a crumb of the misery the Jewish people had to go through to get out. Slaughtering a lamb and smearing its blood on your doorpost doesn’t sound like a riot, but neither is having to sing Ma Nishtana standing on a chair at 23 years old because the seder started too late and all the kids are asleep under the table.
There are lots of ways to make Passover more bearable, enjoyable even. I met a woman who said that instead of seder, her family hikes through the Sinai desert every year; another said they just race through the Haggadah, finishing by 9. As lovely as that sounds, I would argue that if you’re enjoying yourself, you’re doing it wrong.
Passover is a festival of suffering. Yes, the afikomen has succeeded in making carbs gross. Yes, being made to read The Simple Son every year, much to all your siblings’ delight, makes you want to get violent. But that’s the point! Soak it up! Get as miserable as you possibly can. There’s nothing more Jewish than making a holiday out of our suffering.
And unlike the slaves in Egypt, in eight days, you’ll be free.