Wednesday, March 2, 2011

On Those Dreaded P Words

Yup, I'm about to mention those words beginning with P that have been known to strike terror into the hearts of women all across the globe--Purim and Pesach. How is it that such a small, simple letter can have the effect that it does?

In and of itself Purim should be no more a major undertaking than any other holiday we have that lasts one day, but it takes on more significance because it is a visual signpost that the other P will arrive only a scant month later. The two holidays are a study in contrasts. For Purim our houses, and certainly our kitchens, are chock full of items containing flour[think chometz]--goodies that are looked forward to a whole year. Even those who may not stock up on cakes, cookies and other noshes and nibbles may do so for Purim. Shalach Monos arrive containing more nosh than some households will see the entire rest of the year. There is a major seudah, and because one can drive on Purim, the number of guests at the seudah may far exceed the size of any regular or holiday meals throughout the rest of the year. Look at your home after the seudah is over and neat and tidy are not the words that come to mind.

Four weeks later neat and tidy and clean are precisely what is required. No matter how little or how much you choose to do in making Pesach, you are going to be cleaning, and cleaning more than you do for other holidays during the year. Those kitchens that might be perfectly organized during the rest of the year are going to be turned upside down in trying to find a space to put Pesach dishes, pots, silverware and all the paraphernalia necessary for the yom tov. People who don't keep chometz in their homes over Pesach are going to be scrambling to make a month's worth of meals that will use up all that chometz.

Let me mention a few other P words that can help alleviate some of the tension involved in Purim and Pesach--planning, perusing, preparing, purchasing and prioritizing. Now is the perfect time to sit down and start making lists for both holidays. Now is the time to be planning out menus so shopping for those meals will be organized. Now is the time--no other holiday on the calendar--to take care of some of those cleaning chores that you know you are going to be doing and that are going to add to your stress if you leave them to the week before Pesach. Want to wash curtains in the various rooms of your home? No time like the present. Light fixtures looking a bit grungy or a closet that is crying out for reorganization? No time like the present. Two of my local supermarkets have already put out a lot of their Passover displays THIS WEEK (and you should see the sales prices on some of the items). If you have a spot where to store those non-perishables, take your shopping list and get what you can now--those items are not going to be any fresher 6 weeks from now, and many of them will have disappeared off the shelves.

How tense you are going to be going into Purim and Pesach can depend on how well you prepare yourself right now. So, grab a cup of coffee and open up your Purim/Pesach files on the computer (note: if you don't have those files, now is a good time to establish them). It's more than time to get rid of some of the stress these holidays bring on and add back a full dose of joy and simcha.


Abba's Rantings said...

i knew this post would be coming any day now!

(and although i'm sure i've mentioned it in the past, i will repeat again that yekkes are even more neurotic than hungarians in this regard. in hugo mandel's memoir of life in southern germany he describes how pesach cleaning would commence right after hanukkah)

Trudy said...

The stores are already selling Passover goods?!!! It's a conspiracy! That said, you aren't wrong. Some planning now can help keep us sane later on.

Just curious--what do you keep in your Passover files?

JS said...

Sigh. I knew this day would come!

I'll just add that if we acknowledge that the vast majority of what we do for these holidays is not strictly required by halacha - if we recognize that we're making a choice - it become a lot easier to bear. Sending shaloch manot with 10 different home-baked goodies is not required by halacha, it's a choice. We want to feel festive, we want to share with friends and families, and maybe we want to outdo others. Refusing to sell chametz before Pesach is similarly a choice and those bemoaning the cost and difficulty should recognize they're making a choice - maybe that choice is simply an acknowledgment of family traditions or wishing to be extra scrupulous.

It's when we start feeling that all this extra work is REQUIRED (an "r" word) that we feel RESENTFUL (another "r" word).

ProfK said...


I'm off to work but briefly what is in those files is as follows.

1. Menu file--what I'm planning on making for the days that Pesach falls on this year.

2. Shopping File--One list for perishables and one for non-perishables. Next to some of these items I have the number to buy of them based on years of experience

3. Guest list. Who is going to be invited and for when

4. Eruv Tavshilin remember to print and put up on the fridge

5. Seder plate/seder list so I know what needs to be prepared and don't miss anything

6. Cooking schedule--what needs to be made when, what can be frozen

7. Appointment list--what needs to be done in the weeks prior to yom tov that will require sceduling--things like selling the chometz etc.

8. Cleaning schedule--what needs to be cleaned and in what time order

9. A two-month calendar so I can plan the run up to Pesach to be convenient for me, or as convenient as it's going to get

Miami Al said...

We keep our menu from year to year, tweaking. A little here, a little there. We keep most of the Pesach "products" out of our home. Lots of vegetarian dishes as sides.

For the Sedarim, we try to keep the Focus on Pesach and the Hagaddah, NOT the Seudah.