Sharing beloved traditions with your children is one of the most rewarding parts of parenting. However, when it comes to a major holiday such as Passover, with its many symbols and meanings, this task can become a bit difficult. How can you explain this sweeping story of the Israelites' departure from ancient Egypt to your present-day children? Fortunately, there are some simple ways to explain Passover to your kids that can get your little ones enthused for the holiday.
To learn more about the best ways to introduce Passover to your children, I spoke with Rabbi Karen R. Perolman, who tells the story to children of her Short Hills, New Jersey congregation every year. She has great advice for getting children involved with fun crafts and stories, while making space for the more serious aspects of the holiday as well. “It’s a really great way to remind ourselves of how far we’ve come and how far we still want to go,” says Perolman. “Passover is a timely and relevant holiday to celebrate what happened thousands of years ago and why it matters today for us.” In no time your kids will have a deeper appreciation for the Passover story — and perhaps a newfound taste for matzo pizza.
Rabbi Perolman notes that there are a lot of really great children's books about the story of Passover. "It's a story kids can understand," she says. "There's a good guy (Moses) and a bad guy (Pharaoh)." Most kids find the tale compelling. Start with The Story of Passover by Norma Simon.
2Connect It To Spring And New Life
Using springtime symbols is another way to explain the holiday to children. "There's a Seder plate. A roasted egg goes on it, so kids can learn about baby chicks, and how we celebrate new life, too," says Perolman. Most kids will appreciate this kind of connection.
3Enjoy The Special Foods
Picky eaters can be a challenge during Passover. "Passover is hard if your kid only eats pasta and chicken fingers," Perolman says. So she encourages parents to get into the foods in a fun way: you can make matzo pizza, for instance.
Perolman recommends you use creativity to really get kids into the holiday. Using crafts, or even making up an event such as a Passover countdown, can be both educational and engaging.
5Celebrate Your Family
One great aspect of Passover: it brings families together. Perolman notes that a lot of people use this time to visit relatives that they may not see often. Getting your kids excited to see their grandma or cousins in the course of this holiday is a great way to reinforce the sense of community that Passover can build.
6Embrace A Feminist Interpretation
"You can tell the story of Passover only using male characters, but you can make a more feminist interpretation with female characters as well," Perolman says. This is a great way to help your daughters relate to the story more. (As a starting point, here is a piece by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt on the courageous women of Passover.)
7Connect Passover To Current Concerns
If your kids are a bit older, then you can have a more advanced conversation about the role of Passover in present day life. "We believe in freedom for everybody," Perolman says. "So if there are people who are still slaves, we think about how we might help them today." It's an excellent opportunity to practice compassion for others.