How Does Dara Horn Get Ready for Seder?

The celebrated author and her family prepare a vast interactive performance...

Dara Horn
Dara Horn's son aka Moses parts an asphalt-and-chalk Red Sea

We start preparing for the Seder the day after Purim.

When I say “preparing,” I don’t just mean cleaning the house, planning the food and moving furniture to accommodate all the guests, which of course we do. I mean that every year, my husband and children and I prepare a vast interactive performance that allows our many guests — most of whom are children — to feel as though they personally left Egypt.

We have a nine-foot pyramid that we erect in our living room. We covered a room in our house with black paper, used more paper to subdivide it into a series of rooms, painted it with neon paints to look like an Egyptian palace, lit it up with blacklights, and then had our costumed children lead our guests through the various makkot [plagues], ending with 300 meters of blue yarn suspended from the ceiling which one of our children, dressed as Moshe, “parted” to lead everyone through Yam Suf [the Red Sea].

This performance changes every year, and it also applies to every page of the traditional Haggadah, since we re-enact every page in one way or another, whether it means children who enter the house at Ha Lahma Anya as “escaped slaves” and tell the group about their adventures, or “idol salesmen” who come in to sell “idols” to the guests (made of clay or other toy material) before another child, acting as Avraham, smashes them all.

Every year our children and their many cousins also make a movie that tells the story of Sefer Shemot [Book of Exodus] with their own updates; last year, for instance, the B’nei Yisrael [Israelites] were advised to mark their doors, stay inside, and keep at least six feet away from the Angel of Death.

I now have a dozen years’ worth of these movies, and have watched my children grow up inside this story.

Our approach is intentionally lighthearted, but it works: The children own this story, and every person in my household feels, viscerally, as if they too have left Egypt.

The “Passover Memories” project on The Librarians has been created as part of Gesher L’Europa, the National Library of Israel’s initiative to connect with people, institutions and communities across Europe and beyond, through storytelling, knowledge sharing and community engagement.


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