For some, tradition is reason enough to celebrate with the same meal each year. However, for some of the low-profile holidays, customs rooted deeply in religion and thousands of years of cultural practices dictate what will be eaten for that particular holiday.
In the Jewish faith, Passover is one of the most important holidays, and the Seder is the meal that kicks off the entire celebration. This year, Passover began yesterday, April 2, and the Virginia Tech Hillel sponsored a Seder dinner at the Inn at Virginia Tech, which is always held on the first night of Passover.
In Judaism, Passover is, above all, the commemoration of the Jewish slaves' exodus out of Egypt and is a very joyous and celebratory holiday. To offer praise and thanks for their salvation, Jews begin the holiday with a meal called the Seder, which follows strict rules about how and what to eat during the dinner. These rules are laid out in the Haggadah, a religious book that contains the entire service for the Seder meal.
Also, distinguishing it from other Jewish holidays is the fact that the Seder was designed to be held in the home with family and close friends, not in the synagogue. Matthew Frank, vice president of religion for Hillel and junior interdisciplinary studies major, hopes that the dinner at the Inn helped to make up for some students not being able to celebrate Passover at home.
"We hope to give Jewish students a little slice of home if they're not able to go home for the holiday," Frank said. "By making this such a large event, we also hope to expose the Virginia Tech community to a wonderful Jewish tradition, as well as open its eyes to both culture and religions outside of its own."
The sponsors of the dinner were expecting somewhere around 200 participants, but believed there may be less than usual since the Seder fell on a Monday, and lots of students may have chosen to take a long weekend.
The planning of the meal was a joint effort by both the members of Hillel and the staff at the Inn at Virginia Tech.
"It was really a combination of the people at the Inn and us working together to make all the special arrangements as far as decorations and table placements," said Frank, since there are even special rules about plates and exactly what kind of special food will be prepared for the Seder.
"For example, we helped to arrange the Seder plate, a special plate which has compartments around it to hold all the special foods you eat throughout the meal," Frank said.
Courtney Rakes, the director of catering at the Inn who was in charge of coordinating the dinner with Hillel, agreed, "Our chefs are accustomed to preparing all kinds of meals, and the representative from Hillel and I combined some recipes and ideas from some of the families involved, and it was pretty easy to pull off."
This is the second year the meal was held in the Inn, and the staff couldn't have been happier.
"We host sponsored events like this one all the time," said the Inn's manager Gary Crizer. "We host all sorts of civic groups, church groups, weddings, any kind of catered event, and we love to do it."
The entire event took place in the Ballroom at the Inn, and included the traditional ceremony and prayer service, which usually lasts between two and three hours. Participants were happy to see that every convention and detail was covered, so they didn't need to worry about the service not following tradition. All people were welcome to attend, regardless of religion or background, and the cost of the dinner was $35.
Though it may have strict rules of order and tradition, Passover is truly one of the most fun and exciting holidays in the Jewish faith. Often, families will stay up all night telling stories, debating the Torah and singing traditional Passover songs. The Seder is one meal with an interminable place in history.