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10 Fun Facts about Passover

Last week, I experienced my very first Passover celebration.  As a non-practicing Irish Catholic kid, I normally host an Easter egg hunt in my backyard at this time of year.  But Terra Naomi invited me to celebrate the Jewish holiday with her family in Schenectady, New York, and I thought I’d check it out.

I was a little hesitant, of course.  I was afraid that the past nine months Terra and I have spent getting to know each other was all some elaborate setup so that her family could ritually feast on a goy during the Seder dinner, which is the kind of thing I learned about growing up in Manchester, Missouri.  But, as I am alive to write this, body parts intact, I can say conclusively that the Passover dinner is not a time when Jews feed on Christians.  Whew!

I was a little confused about what Passover was, exactly.  Luckily, Terra made me a special Passover Guide.  It opened like this:

HELLO, NON-JEW

WELCOME TO PASSOVER!

As a non-Jew, I’m sure you have some questions and concerns.

Hopefully this booklet will help you to enjoy your PASSOVER experience more fully and completely, and to your utmost potential.

Beneath that, there is a drawing of a Shylock character, probably from some antisemitic website.  I wanted to repost it here, but I think it’s a little too offensive for even some of you. 

Terra was very thoughtful of my own traditions.  In the middle of the booklet, to stop me from feeling overwhelmed from Passover overload, she included cute photos of an Easter Bunny, Christmas tree, and the official symbol of my people, the Lucky Charms leprechaun (though we prefer him drunk and drinking whiskey:)

Terra also gave me this awesome Spider-man yarmulke to wear during the Seder dinner:

I was a little disappointed to see that the men in the Naomi family weren’t wearing yalmulkes with other kickass superheroes on them.  I think Carl Naomi would have looked better with a Green Arrow yarmulke, and Ezra Naomi would have been rad in a J’onn J’onzz Manhunter from Mars yarmulke.  But instead they just wore these white, slightly shiny, kinda gay looking things. 

The first Seder dinner was fascinating – it was like nothing else I ever experienced.  I just sat there and took it all in. By the second Seder dinner, I was an old pro, so I did the kinds of things the other Jews at the table did – played Flight Control on my iPhone, chatted with Sam Naomi, and took pictures of Elliot in my yarmulke:

My trip to Schenectady was extremely educational; I learned many new things, such as -

10 FUN FACTS ABOUT PASSOVER

1) You may think that Passover is a time Jews get together to celebrate the Last Supper and teaming up to kill Jesus Christ.  This is totally not the case.

2) Many Jews associate Gefilte fish with memories of their grandmothers (pg 5, Passover guide).

3) The above is an ornamental display on the table during the Seder dinner.  It is NOT an hors d’oeuvres tray.  If you treat it like such, people will look at you strangely and, in addition, what you eat off it will taste like shit.

4) Matzoh is one of the most constipating substances known to man (pg 4 Passover guide – over the next few days, and just a couple of quarter-poops, I discovered this to be completely true).

5) During the Seder dinner, Jews sing songs in gibberish.  Being that I’m good at at speaking in gibberish – after all, I’ve taken acting improv classes – I joined in and sang gibberish at the top of my lungs!  It was awesome.  The Naomis all stared at me, jaws dropped, shocked that I was so good at speaking complete nonsense.

6) Um, well, Terra just read this over and let me know that the above (#5) is completely not true – her family weren’t speaking nonsense at all, but an actual language that just SOUNDS like nonsense.

"Didn’t you know that was Hebrew?" she asked me.

"Yes," I said. "But I thought ‘Hebrew’ was another word for ‘gibberish’. Like ‘gobbledygook’, or ‘swahili.’"

7) Jews leave out a glass of wine on the table for Elijah, who is sort of like the Passover Easter Bunny, only more useless, as he doesn’t bring eggs, candies, or gifts of any type.

8) God unleashed 10 terrible plagues upon the Egyptians to help free the Jews.  One of these was frogs which, admittedly, is no big whup.  What’s next?  The adorable hamster plague?  Chinchilla herds?  I’m guessing frogs wasn’t the plague that convinced the Egyptians to set the Jews free.

9) In mourning over the destruction of the temple, Jews eat egg in salt water (the salt water symbolizes our tears).  This dish is actually kind of tasty, and much preferable to the things Catholics do in mourning, like self-flagellation, not jerking off, no fish on Fridays, and having to sit through Mass every fucking week.

10) Jews like to watch "HOUSE" after the second Seder dinner.

Overall, I had an incredible trip.  As we were finishing up the second Seder, I thanked the Naomis for sharing their family traditions with me, and said that, in turn, I would like to share one of my family traditions with them.

At that point, I started to do the sign of the cross.  The Naomis were resistant at first to joining in, but I insisted – and thus we ended Passover on a high note!

See you soon,

James

(And – also – a very real thank you to the Naomis for sharing this wonderful time with me.  I felt very accepted, at home, and I had a blast throughout.  In addition, the food rocked.)

MEANWHILE,

HERE’S a link to Terra Naomi’s whole Passover Handbook (minus the Shylock photo), if you want to check it out.

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© 2009, James Gunn. All rights reserved.

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  • http://www.myspace.com/missmadamn Caryl

    Lol! Great blog! Seems like you had a fantastic time. That’s awesome. It must have been exciting for Terra to be able to share all she did with you. P.S. I like to watch HOUSE anytime.

  • http://twitter.com/LuckyAmeliza sooo_yeah

    I’m Irish as well,but not quite catholic. it’s kind of weird, I’m actually I’m some sort of Cajiun-Irish hybrid (Louisiana Irish basically) and that comes from my dads side, and they are catholic, my mom’s side, not so much. i didn’t grow up catholic, so our christian celebrations when I was a child played out like the wedding party scene from Steel magnolias, in the urban cowboy setting (Texas in the 80’s *shudder*) so I’m always facinated with how other people celebrate things.

    come to think of it, it wasn’t just christian celebrations that played out like that…

  • http://www.troydevolld.com StoryTroy

    About number 3… lacing the charoset (the only thing on a seder plate that’s even approaching edible solo) with just a smidge of chrein (horseradish-y mixture) yields something that’s actually pretty freakin’ tasty.

    And if you didn’t open the festivities with a screening of Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop’s Passover Surprise, you missed out.

  • SausageFingers

    I remember throwing Gefilte fish to some raccoons from the back porch of my friend’s home. They approached it cautiously and sniffed it, and looked up at us as if to say “Fuck you guys, you eat it!” Then they ran away.

  • http://www.jamesgunn.com James Gunn

    Betz – Yes, I am part Jewish, but was raised strictly Irish Catholic, so I know jack shit.
    Steve – Unfortunately, Hugh Laurie isn’t even on Twitter. CNN has the largest number of followers, followed by Britney Spears (Obama comes in at #6).

  • SteveGJ

    Perhaps it’s a Naomi subsect of Judaism that involves watching House as, after all, he is addicted to Vicodin. It surely cannot be a coincidence that Terra has a song advertising that drug’s virtues.

    Nb. Whilst Hugh Laurie is not Jewish, his long time comedy partner, Stephen Fry is (at least on his mother’s side, which is what counts) and he apparently has the second largest Twitter following in the world after Barak Obama (well, so I read once).

  • Maggie

    Fun with the learning of new things…I even had to look up the word “goy”

  • John Betz

    James your part Jew, so shouldn’t you have know some of these thing? Did you just hide your jewish heritage in order to garnish more attention from the Naomi’s, thus making you and your Spidey-Cap the center of attention, and causing Terra’s parents to practically forget she was even there? That would have been fucking slick!

  • http://peacoatnate.wordpress.com/ npettz

    I commented on Terra’s blog, but I think I was so sarcastic that I caused her to think I didn’t know the handbook was sarcastic.

    Irony.

  • Leah

    You two are so awesome. Really freaking funny. I bet her whole family loves you. Where in the heck did she get such a cool yalmulka? I bet her brothers were insanely jealous of yours. I do hope you did sneak in some easter candy.

  • http://www.myspace.com/Chris_Quartly Chris Quartly

    Excellent blog, very funny. I also thought Terra’s PDF was brilliant too.

  • http://nussypaloozy.blogspot.com Nussy

    James, did they make you ask the four questions? Also my family used to hide the afikomen (spelling? oh god) and the kids would have to find it like a singular Easter egg hunt. The winner got 20 bucks from my Grandpa.

    We also read from these Children’s Hagadahs sponsored by Folgers. Actually we still read out of the Hagadahs despite the fact that the youngest person at the Seder is 20. The Folger’s coupons within expired in 1992.

  • http://peacoatnate.wordpress.com/ npettz

    Number six is definitely my favorite. No question. By the way, this whole post reminded me of the Passover episode of the Rugrats.



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