My first Pesach was a curious experience. Mrs Goy had buggered off on a junket to New Zealand, but a couple of Israeli expat friends had taken over our London flat for the Passover Seder. Naturally, I was invited.
"Keep yourself hungry," one of them cautioned. "There will be plenty of food."
I like instructions like that. So I starved myself all day long.
Unfortunately, they omitted to tell me that there is an obligation to drink four glasses of wine during the Seder:
Each cup is connected to a different part of the Seder. The first is for Kiddush (קידוש), the second is for 'Magid' (מגיד), the third is for Birkat Hamazon (ברכת המזון) and the fourth is for Hallel (הלל).
The Four Cups represent the four expressions of deliverance promised by God Exodus 6:6-7: "I will bring out," "I will deliver," "I will redeem," and "I will take."I'm sure this means something significant and meaningful. However, what I cannot say.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, by the time we finally got round to the important matter of eating, having extolled the verisimilitude and fortitude of the ancient Hebrews for more than an hour, I was as pissed as a newt, having imbibed on an empty stomach, and spent the rest of the evening under the table.
Anyway, this year, I won't be celebrating the Seder, because I am away from the Holy Land, in London with my resolutely non-Jewish family.
Not being Jewish confers a significant advantage upon me and Mrs Goy at this time of year: we avoid the Israeli national spring pastime, the need to figure out with which set of parents in law we will celebrate Passover.
Let me explain. As a family occasion - the family occasion - of the Jewish calender, the expectation is that families share the meal together. Simple, no?
Look at it this way. You have family A, with three adult married children, X, Y and Z. Spouses of X Y and Z are all Jewish, and have families celebrating the Seder as well.
Matriarch and Patriarch of Family A expect their children to share the meal with them. Which is fair enough. But this does not take into account the desire of the spouse's parents to have their children with them for the evening. And so on.
Generally, a degree in Stochastic processes is necessary to figure out the ensuing mess.
Negotiations can often stretch out for months before the meal, with resort to precedent, past habit and custom, and future expectations ("We spent the Seder with your parents two years years ago, but we can't this year because your brother is spending it with his wife's family, so that means that we are next due with your parents round about 2013...)
Essentially, it's a mess. And this is before taking into account the modern trend for divorced families...
Anyway, being a Goy helps - my in laws get me, each and every year, ad infinitum...