It is that time of year again, the temperature starts rising, flowers start blooming and that only means two things, Spring and Passover are right around the corner. If you’re like most people attending their first Seder, you may have some culture questions about the customs and what to expect during this beautiful tradition shared with family and friends. In honor of Passover which falls, between April 19-27 this year, we’re sharing eight insights for first-time Seder guests to navigate this ritual meal and embrace this Jewish experience. Mazel tov
- RSVP: Respond within 24 hours of receiving your Seder invitation so that the host may prepare for the correct number of guests. Seder dinner is complex, requiring much preparation and planning. A quick RSVP demonstrates your appreciation and respect for this special religious tradition. Remember that a traditional Seder can last several hours, so plan ahead.
- Do your Research: Before attending your first Seder, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the order of the meal, the rituals, and expectations for guests. Although a gracious host will guide guests through each course, it’s helpful to know the basics of breaking matzah and when to wash your hands.
- Dress to Impress: When attending Seder, dress elegantly and modestly in conservative silhouettes and subdued colors. A knee-length dress with a cardigan or a skirt and blouse for women, and slacks, a button up and jacket for men are appropriate depending on location. If you’re still unsure of attire, ask the host or a family member.
- Bring a Gift: Always bring a small gift to express appreciation for hospitality. Make sure to bring a gift marked “Kosher for Passover.” A fruit tray, kosher wine, pre-arranged flowers or a Passover book are culturally appropriate.
- Come Prepared: Have a small bite of protein before you arrive, as Seder kicks off with a litany of prayers and blessings before the main dishes are served. It may be a while before dining begins. Noshing on a protein bar or a small chicken breast at home or work before departing for the Seder will tide you over so you may enjoy the holiday traditions without impatience and hunger cravings.
- Follow the Host: Typically there will be a leader, the host or hostess, who leads the table in the prayers, blessings, and rituals of Seder. The Haggadah, a Jewish booklet that describes the order of Seder, with food descriptions, and the Exodus story are used. If you’re unsure of what to do, follow the host.
- Remember Mealtime Manners: Many of the foods served at Seder, such as charoset, challah, and bitter herbs, are deeply symbolic and key elements of this 2,000-year old tradition. Be polite, adventurous and try each food served. You may be surprised by the dishes you like! Keep an open mind and show appreciation for the host’s preparations.
- Embracing Interculturalism: Attending your first Seder offers a unique chance to learn more about the historically rich tradition of Passover that has united the Jewish people for over two thousand years. Come ready to learn and politely ask questions about rituals. Your host will appreciate the chance to share insight into their beliefs and culture. Embrace the opportunity to expand your knowledge of global traditions and share a food-laden, tradition-rich Seder with friends.
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, attorney, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre and the Intercultural Communication Institute, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide (Wiley 2015), now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.
Sophie Echeverry is the Corporate Marketing Manager and Event Coordinator at Access to Culture. Born and raised in Colombia, she’s a 2018 graduate with a B.B.A. in International Business and Marketing from Hult International Business School in San Francisco, CA. Sophie has co-written more than 30 blogs since graduation. She’s a passionate foodie, and an avid e-scooter rider. Follow her foodie Instagram account or Connect with her on LinkedIn.