What To Do When I Don’t Want To Host Two Seders?

Got a question? Fill out this form to submit your anonymous question to be answered in a future column.

Dear Miriam,

I hosted both seders last year and vowed never to do it again, but no one else in my family has stepped up. I don’t want to disappoint or abandon my parents for the second night, but hosting two nights in a row is too much. I really am conflicted here with wanting to experience the holiday fully but also not overextending myself. So, how important is it to have two seders? Do you have any advice for someone who doesn’t want to host both but doesn’t have anyone else to do so? 


Stuck with Both Seders


Dear Stuck,

Having two seders is important to me because it’s part of my tradition, it’s something I care about, and, in the communities in which I find myself, two seders are a given. I imagine it’s important to other people for all kinds of reasons ranging from religious conviction to getting to spend more time with family and friends. Since it sounds like you grew up having two seders, it’s probably pretty ingrained for you, too. But, realistically, many (if not all!) Jews are constantly picking and choosing which parts of Jewish observance to lean into and which feel less crucial. So while I’m hesitant to assign a degree of importance here, I do want to empower you to think about the big picture of your Jewish life and where a particular vision of what seders look like fits into that picture. 

I suggest that you talk to your parents before putting any plans into place. What do they really value about this tradition (and a second seder in particular)? Do they know how hard this was for you last year? Is there anything they’re willing to do to ease the burden? What are the absolute necessities for them – and for you – that would make a second seder fulfill what they’re looking for?

In tandem with talking to your parents, you can also ask yourself which parts of hosting feel like they’ll put you over the edge. Is it the dishes? Then consider whether you could host two nights if you use disposables. Is it the cooking? Consider how much of the food for one or both seders could be catered. Is it the ungratefulness of the other attendees? Maybe you can assign them particular responsibilities along with your invitation (including, possibly, bringing some of the food or supplies). Is it having people in your home? Maybe there’s a small venue you could rent for one or both nights. Is it late bedtimes? Maybe you can hire a babysitter to deal with any kids during the seder. Is it the repetitiveness of reading the whole hagaddah twice? On the second night, you could substitute alternate readings, a themed haggadah, the Exodus story itself, or Passover children’s books for some of maggid (the storytelling part of the seder). 

Someone somewhere in this equation is going to have to show some flexibility, and I hope it doesn’t have to be (only) you. Your parents may need to be open to going to someone else’s home, and hopefully your community has a plan for finding people home hospitality. Other family members may also need to help you with some of the work, or financially support you to be able to take some of the work off your plate. Any additional potential guests may need to accept that if they can’t help out, the second seder may not look exactly like they’ve envisioned it. 

You have a lot of options that will feel less dramatic either than driving yourself crazy accommodating other people’s needs on the one hand, or dropping a tradition and abandoning your parents on the other hand. Coming up with those options will be its own kind of work, sure, but you can start now. I don’t think you need to give up on a second seder altogether, but I do think you’re going to benefit from a solid plan, some serious boundaries, and a thick skin to deal with any complaints. If everyone is giving you the responsibility of hosting, then take that responsibility and make it work for you. 

Be well,