(Explanation: One of the end of the seder songs is "Echad me yodea", which is a counting song that goes, "Who knows n? I know n!" and then counts down to one. Yom Tov, literally "Good Day", means "holiday." Which last makes the traditional greeting "Gutt Yomtov" rather amusing.)
So. This was my Passover.
I said three because, well. Here outside of Israel, we celebrate religious holidays two days instead of one,with the exceptions of Rosh HaShanah, which is always two and Yom Kippur, which is always one, no matter where you are.
However, it happens that a holiday will fall on a Thursday. Happens fairly often. When it does, the two days run into Shabbat. Since holidays have much of the same restrictions as the Sabbath, we call it a three-day yomtov. This means all sorts of things, like making special arrangements so that one can cook on Friday afternoon for the Sabbath, since one is forbidden to prepare on Yom Tov for any other day, even if the other day is also a holiday. However, one may start to prepare for Sabbath the day before the holiday begins, and declare that these preparations (usually a piece of bread/matza and a hard boiled egg) are part of the Sabbath prep and you will finish on Friday afternoon. This is a concession because otherwise you can't make food or even light your Sabbath candles on the holiday. However, electricity and such are still out.
Remember this. :)
The last few years have all been three day holidays, so we've been spending them at home instead of going to my in-laws. Last year, we noticed that there were going to be four more years of this and thought about going to my in-laws, but decided against it. Passover was after daylight savings time. This meant that *we* wouldn't want to start until the correct time both nights (full dark), which is too late for my in-laws. So we stayed home again. It was lovely. I had both seders for the first time - one with science fiction fans and one with family and a local friend. Both were relaxed and fun, and if they ended around midnight, well, that's *good*. In fact, last year's Passover week was one of the best holidays we'd had.
This year. This year, I was working for the first time, we'd gone on a two week trip a month before and I'm in a new apartment, which means I had to devise new strategies for where to put away the year round stuff and where to put out the Passover stuff.
So. We were at my in-laws this year. Don't get me wrong. My in-laws are wonderful people and I love them. It's just. Tension.
It starts with starting times. Halacha (Jewish law) says that you start a seder at full dark, after evening services. My mother-in-law regards this as a chumra, a very strict custom, and she wants to finish early. It's strange for us - we live in a world where people brag about how late their seders end, and she wants to be finished by 9:30. So, she started as soon as it was candlelighting, eighteen minutes before sunset. This is minimally fine, given that it was 6PM. She, however, chose to light her candles without telling me. This causes a problem. She doesn't like it when I light my own, and it's her house, so she has the right to light for it. But if I'm not present when she does light, her lighting doesn't count for me. So I had to light anyway, which made no one happy - I had to interrupt the first part of the seder which she was in a rush to begin. If she'd just called me in, that would not have happened.
The seder was fine. It had the normal problems - my father-in-law is mostly deaf and doesn't really care, so he lets my mother-in-law shout at him across the table for each step. And when he forgets, she yells louder. He forgets because he really doesn't think it's important. So, even for our own seders, we have the ritual shout of "Sydney!" And the guests were not religious, so everything had to be explained in detail. Which Mom. Um. If Jonathan or I go into a lengthy explanation (I didn't get the chance to read up, so I stayed silent, mostly), it's bad. Makes it longer. She, on the other hand...*sigh*. She has to talk about all the things she'd just learned in class. Which is fine. It's just not fair. :)
It doesn't help that questions directed to my father-in-law will get an off-hand and often incorrect answer.
But, by and large, dinner was fine. The only problem during the meal was the asparagus - one that we knew about, one that we didn't. The one we knew about was that she cooked the asparagus using her microwave on the holiday. This is not permitted, and had there been other vegetables, we'd have not eaten them at all. The one that we didn't was that they are high in purine. What is purine? Purine is a protein that the body turns into uric acid. This is not a problem for most of us, but if your body can't dispose of excess properly, it builds up in joints and causes gout. Jonathan has gout caused by his bp meds. Since he couldn't eat much of anything else - meat is also high in purine and the main course was turkey and all animal products are at least moderate in purine - he reluctantly filled up on asparagus, figuring veggies are okay. Not that it's a strain to eat asparagus, but technically, it wasn't kosher because of how and when it was cooked. If she'd cooked in the microwave before yom tov, that would have been fine, if she'd steamed it on top of the stove during, that would have been fine.
The rest went *just* fine, and by eleven or so, the dishes were all washed and we were back in our hotel room, reading by the light of the kitchenette and the bathroom. We went to synagogue the next day, and we had lunch by his parents - a light turkey salad, quite nice - and she started the second seder on the dot of seven, at the earliest possible moment, and this time she lit the candles with me there. And I didn't say a word when she struck the match. See, it's permissible to transfer flame on a holiday, but not to start or end one. One uses an existing flame, provided by a pilot light or a stove burner turned on before the holiday started or a long burning candle. But it was her house and it was the second day, so it's purely rabbinic all the way and not worth arguing about. This time the guests were knowledgeable and it all went smoothly, although I got tired of being called "very strict." I'm really *not*. It may sound that way, but I've studied the law, and I do the baseline stuff, not the extra strictness. I even do some leniencies.
There was the minor problem that they did the normal predinner party stuff that afternoon - prepared the veggies to roast, set the table, etc. Why is this a problem? Because you're not permitted to do any prep for a different day on Yom Tov. Even minor stuff like that. Again, technically her veggies were treif, but we ate them anyway. It was that or eat nothing.
And at one point, Jonathan got sufficiently upset to tell her so. The results were not pretty. And my own behavior was pretty ugly. I tried, but I failed a lot.
It helped that I took some time on Friday to go to a local Barnes and Noble and just *read*. It got me away from everyone. I was mildly frustrated that I couldn't buy anything, but such is life.
The solution to Saturday afternoon was as simple. We were already checked out of the hotel, so there was no where I could go to escape except the bookstore *again*, but Jonathan asked if I wanted to go to a class at the synagogue before afternoon services. We'd have the class, afternoon services, a snack and evening services. At that point, Shabbat would be over and we could go home. This worked out just fine, and I enjoyed all of it.
Sunday we were home, and Jonathan's elbow, where the gout is, was hurting badly because he'd eaten too much meat and asparagus. At this point, I realized we were in for a dairy Pesach. I went shopping and even got the basic ingredients for one of my Passover staples, a "mina" - a pie made of ground beef, potatoes, spinach and pine nuts on a matza crust. Except that spinach is also a no-no. Good thing he's on iron supplements, no? However, I knew I wouldn't be making it. Instead, I made a dairy lasagna, using matza and slices of eggplant for the pasta. Very yummy and lasted us two nights. I made myself burgers for a snack on Monday and Tuesday because I'm *not* on iron supplements.
It was strange working during Passover. I had to bring my own coffee, bring my own lunch. I took a tub of tuna salad with me, but I ended up living on nuts instead. And I left 90 minutes early on Tuesday so I could go home. The last two days of Passover are also holidays, you see. I made quiches to continue the dairy theme, and we went to friends' houses dinner and lunch the second day, where Jonathan took it very easy on the meat. Thursday night, I restored my kitchen, having the very strange experience of packing my meat dishes away totally unused. I'd used a meat pan to make the burgers but used disposable plates, you see. These usually get the heaviest workout of all, and there have been years when I haven't touched my dairies. Since Sabbath and holiday meals are normally fleishig, this makes sense - except that I use paper plates for seders just to make life easier. After the seder, you wash the silver and toss out the dishes.
And now it's not holiday time anymore, and I get to...prepare for the Sabbath. I can't wait for next week. A full week! Yay!