Easter & Passover Etiquette

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Easter and Passover weekends are here. Do you have your bonnet ready? Have you baked a batch of hot-cross buns or saved a chair for Elijah? Whatever your traditions are this holiday, there are sure to arise some etiquette quandaries. To assist you with those questions, here are some scenario-saving suggestions usable this weekend and all the year through. For more of this advice, have a peek at my segment this week on the Today show with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb.

SO IF YOU ARE HEADING TO EASTER OR PASSOVER DINNER THIS WEEKEND ... SHOULD YOU ALWAYS OFFER TO BRING DESSERT OR A SIDE ... OR IS A BOTTLE OF WINE OR FLOWERS ENOUGH?
Any time you are invited to dinner at someone’s home, you should always offer to assist the host by bringing a food dish. If the host declines, you can still bring something—just don’t make it a scene-stealer, which will detract from what the host has prepared. In the case of Passover, if the household you are visiting keeps kosher, make certain not to bring anything into the home that is not sealed and marked kosher for Passover.

In all cases, you should always bring something for the host to enjoy well after the party is over, such as a nice bottle of wine or a potted Easter lily.

AND AS THE HOST -- IS IT EVER OK TO INVITE SOMEONE OVER, AND THEN SAY, "HEY COULD YOU TAKE CARE OF THE SALAD??
A host should always have a ready answer for the question “What can I bring?” If the guest does not ask, and the host needs some help with the menu, she could ask the guest, “I’m wondering if you’d be able to bring that famous Waldorf salad of yours that everyone loves so much?” Don’t ask the guest to bring the main course or something that is out of the ordinary or out of his or her regular recipe routine.

LET'S TALK ABOUT SEATING -- DO YOU PREFER ASSIGNED SEATS WITH PLACECARDS -- OR SHOULD IT JUST BE A FREE-FOR-ALL AT THE TABLE?
Depending on the size of the gathering and how formal you want to make this party, place cards can be a nice touch. They are especially handy if you’ll be having guests who spend much of every meal arguing. This way, you can seat them as far apart as possible.

WHAT ABOUT DESSERT -- SOME PEOPLE SERVE IT IMMEDIATELY, BUT YOU MIGHT NEED A BREATHER!
Most certainly give yourself and your guests a bit of a break before dessert. This is a great time for a walk, a game (whether an outdoor sport or a board game) or—if you haven’t done it already—an egg hunt, which will allow everyone to work off the meal a bit. For anyone whose sweet tooth can’t wait, I like having a selection of jellybeans set out in colorful dishes around the family room at the beginning of the party.

THEN THERE'S CLEAN UP-- A LOT OF TIME AS THE HOSTESS, YOU'RE EAGER TO CLEAR PLATES, GET THE DISHES GOING IN THE KITCHEN, BUT THEN YOU’RE SORT OF ABANDONING YOUR GUESTS ... WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST?
Unless you are having your meal catered, there’s not much getting around the fact that the host or hostess is going to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. And clearing the plates is an important part of preparing for the next course. But once the last course has been served, the host should take a break from the kitchen and spend any remaining time with his or her guests. Any additional cleanup can be done after the last guests have left.

AND FINALLY, AS THE NIGHT WRAPS UP ... BUT PEOPLE ARE STILL LINGERING... HOW DO YOU POLITELY INDICATE THE EVENING IS OVER??
You don’t want to rush people out, but once dessert has been served and coffee has been consumed, a line like “We have so many leftovers…what can I give you to take home?” is a nice way to suggest to your guests that they must start rustling. If they don’t take that cue, enlist the services of a sibling or other close family member to start the exodus with a line such as “I know we all have work and school tomorrow and Sarah has been cooking all day. We should head home so she can get some sleep.”