How to Host a Small-Scale Passover Celebration

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Planning to host a small Passover Seder? We've got ideas for making sure the holiday is still as meaningful as ever.

Passover will still be different this year as we continue to deal with the ongoing pandemic and the need to follow social-distancing guidelines while we await the full vaccine rollout. And while many of us are getting used to pivoting holiday traditions, every holiday is unique. Our usual phrase might be “next year in Jerusalem,” but let’s be honest, for now we are all hoping for “next year at Nana’s house!”

In the meantime, just because Passover Seder will likely be limited to the people in our immediate household, that doesn’t mean it won’t be a meaningful evening.

Now is the time to think about ways to make it extra special—these Passover decorations, games and props can help. It’s also a time to embrace the unusual nature of the times. For starters, what does the holiday mean to you? What parts of it do you need to protect to feel that you really enjoyed the holiday? Whether it is taking on the role of leading the service for the first time or cooking new-to-you dishes, this Passover can be extraordinary for so much more than just what is missing.

How to Celebrate Passover Virtually

Jewish Families Celebrate Passover With Seder Over Video ConferenceEzra Shaw/Getty Images

Are there family members who you never get to celebrate with? Do you usually have to alternate between your family and your spouse’s? Think about having your Passover Seder on Zoom or another platform that can accommodate everyone, so you can celebrate with the people you usually don’t get to share the holiday with. As long as everyone is using the same Haggadah, you should be able to be fully interactive and have a wonderful service.

Hosting for the first time? Start with our Passover Seder guide.

How to Celebrate Passover at Home

If everyone has Zoom fatigue, take the opportunity to create a service that means something to your family. Research Passover traditions from around the world and choose one to incorporate, check out a new Haggadah or find another way to add some new elements that fit you and your family. If you have kids, often you may spend a portion of the usual family gathering attempting to wrangle them and get them through a long adult-focused service, so this year make it all about them! Your Passover Seder could include games or kid-focused holiday project boxes like this Days Box from Before the Seder, plan the menu with them and choose dishes that they can help prepare.

Small-Batch Passover Recipes

When it comes to the food, if you love all the traditional Passover recipes but need everything scaled down, you have options. If you have space in your freezer, think about making your recipes as-is and freeze half for future meals. You’ll never regret saving extra matzo ball soup to thaw when you’re feeling under the weather, or having braised short ribs ready to go. And of course, you can always eat Seder leftovers throughout Passover!

If you don’t have the room in your fridge and freezer, choose recipes that can be easily halved. With the exception of baking, which is science, most of your usual Seder dishes can be cut in half and still taste just as good. Remember to also reduce the size of your cooking vessel and adjust cooking times as needed. You can also take the opportunity to check out some recipes that are already set for a family your size. Whether you need a smaller brisket, potato kugel or lamb shanks, there are fabulous recipes to explore.

For more inspiration, check out our classic Passover recipes.

How to Share Food with Family

Do you usually do all of the Passover cooking? Instead, put together Seder-in-a-box kits with all of the food in reheatable containers to drop off for the other households who usually join in your meal. If yours is always a Passover pot luck, dole out the assignments and have everyone pack up their offerings for a safe, masks-on swap on someone’s porch or driveway. Be sure to include storage and heating instructions, and don’t forget the Seder plate items.

(Don’t own a Seder plate? There are many gorgeous Seder plates you can buy.)

If everyone is just doing their own thing when it comes to the food, then you get the chance to get creative with a menu that suits your family! Not a fan of gefilte fish? Try Tunisian fish cakes for a delicious twist. Are you personally lukewarm on brisket? Go for an elevated leg or rack of lamb instead. Celebrating solo? Roast a Cornish hen for one instead of a chicken. Once you pick a main course, fill out the meal with some Passover side dishes you haven’t tried before.

Remember the Story of Passover

Jewish Families Celebrate Passover With Seder Over Video ConferenceEzra Shaw/Getty Images

Finally, whether you are observing this year alone, with a small intimate evening for two or four, or online with the whole family, take a moment to remember that ultimately the story of Passover is the story of survival. It’s the story of a people who triumph against all odds and came out the other side stronger and more determined. What could be a more meaningful or important lesson to hear right now? However you choose to celebrate, chag pesach sameach.

Easy Passover Recipes for Your Seder
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Stacey Ballis
Novelist and freelance writer, primarily in the food and lifestyle sphere. Outlets include Food & Wine, Eating Well, Plate Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Bake From Scratch Magazine, MyRecipes, AllRecipes, TheTakeout, and others. BA/MA