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We deliberated for several days about what to do about Pesach this year. Our ideal is to host a Seder and invite friends, but most of our friends are 1500 miles away (or more), and we had trouble reaching the few we do have here. We looked into the San Miguel Jewish community’s Seder, but their response to “would a three-year-old enjoy it?” was not very encouraging. So we decided to just have a Seder for the three of us, with Joy cooking and me in charge of creating an abbreviated Haggadah.

Then, a few hours before the Seder, Joy saw an e-mail from a woman looking for a child-friendly Seder for her and her six-year-old son, K. We always have more food than we need, so we called them, they came, and we were so glad they did. They were really nice, interesting people; they’re UUs too; the munchkin and K hit it off (what a find, a six-year-old who’s happy to play with a three-year-old!); and having them here made our holiday complete. Eating dinner with just our family is lovely, but for the holidays it doesn’t feel quite right.

It was a funny business, creating the Haggadah. I’ve done it almost every year for several years now, for our church Seder, but having to really cut out most of it brought home to me what a crazy conglomeration and compilation it is. It shows all the signs of having been built by accretion; not just the recent, feminism-inspired additions like the orange and Miriam’s cup, but many elements, have been incorporated in response to some need or political moment that’s fallen into the obscurity of history. The four children, for instance; when did that come along, and why? All the lists and formulations, like the singing of the order of the Seder itself, and the “matzah, maror, pesach” bit—where did they come from? Why the four cups of wine? What does Chad Gadya have to do with Passover? Reading a typical Haggadah is like a walk through Jewish history. I’d love to see one that includes the works, with annotations about how each element entered the flexible canon that is the Haggadah.

What follows is what we considered essential and absorbable by our daughter. She has been to four or five Seders in her three years, starting with the one we held with close friends at home when she was a month old, but I don’t think she remembers anything from any previous ones. If she remembers anything from this one a year from now, I’m betting it will be playing with K, and the prizes they won.

(ETA that I notice a lot of people are finding this entry via searches for “unitarian haggadah” or “abbreviated haggadah” or the like. So if you’re wondering if you can use this, yes, and if your family doesn’t do “mad face” or blessings in Cat, adapt it to your own kids. Just please credit me, and make it clear to whoever uses it that it is drastically edited out of the vast realm that is the Haggadah.)

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