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Easy Passover Ideas for Christian Families

Celebrate Passover with your Christian family this year and learn to see Jesus all over this ancient ritual.  Includes sample menus for a simple meal.

Once again, it's only a few days before a major holiday and I'm finally getting around to doing a blog post about it!  I was listening to The Prince of Egypt the Musical cast album this morning and realized that Passover is THIS weekend!  Passover is one of our favorite holidays, but it's always hard to remember since it doesn't have all the hype of bigger days like Christmas (although I still tend to do last minute things with that holiday too).

If you're a Christian family and have been wondering about Passover, this blog post is specifically for you!  I want to set up a very simple explanation of the holiday for curious people.  I have written about Passover previously, but it was a long 3-part series and not as simplified as I'd like and not easy to share.  Obviously, there is A LOT I could write about and many more details, but I'm aiming to make this post short and sweet.


CONTENTS:

- What is Passover?

- Why Should Christians do Passover?

- Passover Shopping Fun

- Passover the Ritual

- Jesus in the Passover

- Simple Passover Menu

- Easy Passover Celebration


What is Passover?

Passover is a springtime Jewish holiday, which celebrates and retells God's deliverance of the Hebrew people.  The book of Exodus tells the entire story, but Passover focuses primarily on the chapters of 3-12.  The Passover meal is a highly ritualized rehearsing of the events through food, questions, songs, storytelling, and more.

In most Jewish households, there is a special Seder plate with six places on it for the six ceremonial foods that are part of the ritual meal.  The six foods are (1) a lamb bone, (2) bitter herbs, (3) chopped apple, (4) horseradish, (5) parsley, and (6) an egg.  The Passover Seder revolves around these six foods.  You can read more about the ceremonial plate by clicking on the colored text.


Celebrate Passover with your Christian family this year and learn to see Jesus all over this ancient ritual.  Includes sample menus for a simple meal.


Why Should Christians Do Passover?

You may be wondering why 21st century Christians would have anything to do with an ancient Jewish holiday.  The debate over how "Jewish" to make Christianity is a long one full of many theological issues.  I've covered many of them in my previous series if you want to explore them all.  The basic arguments are (1) God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and his everlasting commandments should be followed endlessly and (2) Jesus established a new religion when He started the Church so we don't need to do the Jewish parts of the Bible.  I suggest that you take some time to study the issues in the Bible yourself.

My family celebrates Passover in a slightly different way every year.  Sometimes we have guests (we lead our entire church one year) and other years we're just a group of two.  Some years, we do the entire ritual meal with all the elements and sometimes we eat a simple meal.  We also change up when we celebrate the meal, observing it on the actual Passover day or as part of our Holy Week observance.

As a Christian mom, I enjoy doing Passover with my family, because it gives me an entire day of focused lessons about God and the redemption we have in Jesus.  For older kids, the ritual of the Passover (explained below) is packed with illustrations and hand-on activities that point to Jesus.  With younger kids or during busier seasons of life, a shortened meal is probably a very good idea.  You can take time to bring in additional hands-on activities like small world play, acting out the stories, or watch a movie like "Prince of Egypt" or "The Ten Commandments."


Celebrate Passover with your Christian family this year and learn to see Jesus all over this ancient ritual.  Includes sample menus for a simple meal.

Passover Shopping Fun

Zoe Discovers Passover at Easter- I just read this book to my kids recently.  It is a very simple explanation of the Seder and how it works out in most Jewish households.  I think you could read this book during or just before Passover dinner as an introduction and explanation for kids.

A Christian Seder Meal- This books is aimed at families to help explain Jesus in the Passover and provide a script for a ceremonial dinner.  

Prince of Egypt- This animated cartoon has almost become a classic and is a favorite in our house.  The video tells the story of the Passover in a dynamic, musical way.  It would be a good way to introduce the story to your kids.  Also, be sure to check out the West End musical version!

Matzah Crackers- Unleavened bread is a staple in every Passover meal.  I like to order the 5lbs boxes from Amazon, but you can sometimes find them locally.  If you're just eating matzah for one meal, you'll probably only need 1-2 crackers per person.  You can also find gluten-free matzah if you need that recipe.

Passover Play Set- If you have little ones, a soft play set like this one would give them a lot of options for pretend play.  Learning through play is the best way!  It can be Passover all year long with these toys.

Seder in a Box- If you are new to Passover, you may find this "Seder in a Box" kit to be helpful.  It includes everything you need for your family including both reusable and consumable items.  This would make a nice gift for newlyweds too.

10 Plagues Finger Puppets- It can be challenging for kids to understand the Exodus story and keep all the plagues in order.  Use these finger puppets to help tell the story and keep them engaged.

Gummy Frogs- Speaking of plagues, the curse of frogs were definitely not as fun as these gummy ones, but a burst of sweetness is always a good idea during Passover.  These would also make a good bribe for keeping kids engaged with the lessons.

Seder Meal Platter- A traditional Jewish Passover includes a special platter for the ceremonial foods.  If you plan on doing a full Seder meal, you'll want one of these plates, too.

Sam the Dancing Matzoh Man- This is just a silly addition to the list of supplies.  If you're heading to someone else's house for Passover, the Matzoh Man would make a good hostess gift.


Celebrate Passover with your Christian family this year and learn to see Jesus all over this ancient ritual.  Includes sample menus for a simple meal.


Passover the Ritual

Since Passover is an ancient holiday, it has many parts and traditions, which center around a book of readings called a Haggadah.  You can almost think of the book as a 3 part play with different scenes and actions for each section.  The Haggadah begins with a prayer inviting God into the room and the lighting of two candles to remind us of His presence.  Then, the first cup of grape juice (I'll use wine and juice interchangeably) is poured, blessed, and drank.  Each of the four cups of wine have a named based on the promises of God in Exodus: (1) I have seen and heard the cries of My people, (2) I know their suffering, (3) I will come down to deliver them, and (4) I will bring them to a good land."

After the first cup is drank, the family participates in a ritual handwashing around the table.  Then, the parsley is taken from the special platter, dipped in salt water, and eaten to represent the bitterness of slavery.

Next, a stack of three special matzoh get a strange treatment.  The middle matzah is removed from the stack, broken in half, and one half of it is wrapped up for later.  During dinner, the wrapped up half is hidden from the family to be found by the children after the meal.  This piece is usually "redeemed" for a prize of toys, candy, or money.

The children of the family then ask four questions, which are taken from Exodus.  They ask, (1) Why is this night different from all other nights? (2) Why do we only eat unleavened bread tonight? (3) Why are we dipping herbs tonight? (4) Why do we eat lamb?  The leader of the Seder answers each question in turn.

The cup of juice is filled again and the storytelling of the Exodus begins with a recitation of the ten plagues.  As each plague is named, everyone dips his or her finger into their cup and drops out some of the juice onto their plate.

Next comes a list of God's blessings and mercies to the Jewish people through the story of their redemption.  This time is usually sung with the Hebrew statement "Dayenu," which means, "It would have been enough."  The list includes things like "If God had only parted the sea and not killed the Egyptian army, it would have been enough."  The phrases are said/sung in a call-and-response sort of way.

In yet a third way, the story of the Exodus is told, this time focusing on the hardness of Pharaoh's heart.  This retelling ends with the leader holding up a lamb bone from the Seder plate and explaining how God commanded the blood of the lamb to be placed over the doorframe of the ancient's houses.

The second cup of juice is blessed and drank, then some songs of praise to God are sung.  In preparation for the dinner meal, there is a second handwashing ritual.  Then, the unleavened bread is explained and eaten with horseradish as God commanded in Exodus 12.  The matzoh is then eaten with the chopped apples.  Finally, dinner is served.

After the meal, the hidden matzoh piece (remember from before?) is found and brought back to the leader.  This piece is broken into several pieces and passed around the table.  A thanksgiving prayer for dinner is now recited and a third cup of wine is poured, blessed, and drank.

God promised that Elijah would come before the Lord, so the Passover ritual includes a check for his arrival.  A special cup is set out of the prophet before the meal and a place of honor is sometimes set for him.  One of the children is asked to check the door to see if he's waiting outside.

The roasted egg is held up and an explanation is made that the egg represents sacrifice and is sometimes used to remember the persecution of the Jewish people throughout history.  Then, the fourth cup of juice is poured, blessed, and drank.  The Seder ends with a long Scripture reading from the Psalms (113-118) and songs of praise and thanksgiving.

As you can see from this explanation, Passover can be very long and complicated.  It's not uncommon for the entire ritual to last 2-3 hours!  But, what if you want to make a short and simple Passover celebration?  Scroll down for more ideas!


Jesus in the Passover

If you're a Christian, you probably caught several places in the above description of Passover that sound familiar.  I'm not planning on being exhaustive in my explanation, as that would take up way too much time, effort, and space.  If you're super interested in seeing Jesus in the Passover, grab one of these books (click on the colored text) and read all the details yourself.

One of the most obvious connections is that the Passover was celebrated by Jesus and became the Christian ritual of Communion.  It was the unleavened bread of Passover that Jesus said was the symbol of His blood and it was at least two of the cups of wine that He said represented His blood.

There is a fair amount of evidence in the New Testament Christians celebrated Communion as Passover.  For example, in 1 Corinthians 5 says, "Let us celebrate the feast" (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).  I also find it very interesting to think about Passover as an entire family event from infants to the elderly.

Another big connection between Jesus and the Passover is the sacrificed lamb.  In Exodus, God commanded His people to kill a yearling lamb and place the blood of that lamb on their doorframes to show their obedience to Him and to protect their family from the Angel of Death.

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is called the Lamb of God and His death on the cross is used to cover over our sins and save us from the eternal consequences of those sins.  Hebrews reminds us that Jesus's sacrifice was the final and only one needed (Hebrews 10). 


Celebrate Passover with your Christian family this year and learn to see Jesus all over this ancient ritual.  Includes sample menus for a simple meal.

Easy Sample Menu

The only foods mentions in the Bible in regards to Passover are (1) lamb, (2) unleavened bread, and (3) bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8). Like all family holiday meals across cultures, the meal has taken on many other traditional foods over the centuries, including matzoh ball soup, gefilte fish, and brisket.  Here's the simple meal that my family eats for Passover, but you can serve whatever your family will eat.

1- grape juice (or wine)

2- leg of lamb

3- matzoh (I order from Amazon)

4- roasted asparagus

5- creamed horseradish

6- chocolate covered matzoh


Cook the lamb in your favorite way.  While the lamb is cooking, melt chocolate in the microwave and paint it onto a few pieces of matzah for dessert.  Place a platter of plain matzoh on the table with a small bowl of creamed horseradish.  After the lamb comes out of the oven, it will need some time to rest before being cut, so it's a great time to put the asparagus in the oven to roast.  Serve dinner with the unleavened bread, lamb, asparagus, horseradish, and grape juice to drink.  Easy, filling, and festive.


Easy Passover Celebration

Before, during, and after dinner are great times for teaching kids about Passover and how it relates to us as Christians.  You can make this time as involved or as simple as you'd like.  I like to spend some time talking about the Exodus story, explaining why we're eating the menu that we are that night, and then talk about Jesus.  You can use some of the points from earlier in the article to point your kids to Jesus.  I try to hit on how Jesus is like the unleavened bread and the sacrificed lamb and how the grape juice was used to represent His blood.  If your religious tradition allows, your family could also take communion together.


I hope this gives you lots to think about as we move into the Passover weekend.  Please let me know in the comments if you do Passover with your Christian family and what your favorite traditions are for the holiday.  Happy Passover!


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Celebrate Passover with your Christian family this year and learn to see Jesus all over this ancient ritual.  Includes sample menus for a simple meal.



Christ-Centered Passover Script and explanation for Christians who want to learn more about the Seder

Christ-Centered Passover Script




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