As we have well established by now, my husband is Sephardi (Spanish-Portuguese to be exact, though he learns about a variety of Sephardic customs and adopts what he identifies with) and I am Asheknazi. We are both very tied to the customs and traditions of these identifications, and when it comes to Pesach (Passover) this is only intensified. We have found ways to combine our heritages before, but hosting a seder for the first time somehow was a much bigger ordeal. In fact, it led to some very interesting conversations and a lot of compromise because neither of us was going to win on everything. I wanted to share some of the big things which we had to think about.
Hagadot: We discussed making our own hagadot but decided against it after having heard what friends of ours went through in the process (Jessica will be writing about their experience with it on Thursday, actually). So if we weren’t going to make our own, what would we use? I grew up with the Maxwell House hagadah, though a few years ago my family upgraded. In college and grad school I used various Hillel compilations, and since moving have encountered a wide variety of hagadot. D has mainly been exposed to traditional Ashekenazi hagadot. So while I was apathetic about what I had used before and comfortable with them for the sense of familiarity they provide alone – Dustin was eager to try something new. We just received ten of Rabbi Marc Angel’s Sephardic hagadot in the mail. Now we just need to familiarize ourselves with the differences.
Food: As mentioned last week, my husband eats kitniyot and I do not. Some of our guests will, and some will not. So how do we make a meal which everyone can enjoy, and feel their traditions are recognized? Serve a little bit of everything! To start the meal we will have eggs and gefilte fish, and hummus and turkish salad. As side dishes we will have roasted potatoes, and rice and lentils. Plus of course some meat and salad and matzah ball soup. Luckily, we have someone in our community who makes amazing flour-less chocolate torts for Pesach which we can serve for dessert.
Birkat Hamazon: So now that we know which hagadah we will use and what we will serve, how much do we want to push the comfort level of our guests? We can do the Sephardic birkat hamazon (grace after meals) which has some different wording and a totally different melody to accomodate as such. That is probably what makes the most sense since it will be in our Hagadah after all. However, we have some guests who have less of an understanding of the nuances of birkat hamazon who may get lost with a new tune and words. So we will likely use the birchonim (aka – benchers, the books which contain the various blessings around mealtimes) from our wedding – since they are userfriendly, complete with transliateration for those in need.
To round it all out, we will be using the tablecloth my grandmother embroidered for my future wedding present (before marriage was even really on my agenda) and the matzah cover and seder plate which were passed down to me from my grandparents, as the person most likely to annually host a seder and truly appreciate these items. You can’t get much more Sephardekanazi than that!