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Happy Pesach, Los Angeles

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"Why is this night different from all other nights?" you might ask. Well, it's the first night of Passover, and even folks who will be sitting down to a seder somewhere in the Southland tonight will also be asking the same thing, because it's one of four questions that are posed in the traditional pre-dinner ceremony.

Passover is a hands-on Jewish holiday, where families and friends gather around the table to honor the Israelites' exodus from Egypt and freedom from slavery in biblical times. It is a springtime celebration that lasts 7-8 days (depending on where you are and your affiliation within Judaism). The first few nights are traditionally observed by holding a seder, which is, for the uninitiated, something like a self-directed dinner theatre experience, complete with a place set for a wandering spirit (the prophet Elijah), times when you have to stick your finger in your wine, singing, and a hide-and-seek game for something resembling a large cracker (matzo).

If you're headed to a seder tonight and usually bring a bottle of wine for the hosts, check to find out if they are only serving kosher wine with the meal (i.e. Manischewitz). Leavened products are off limits during the holy days, so if you want to bring something sweet that means no pastries or cakes; a basket of whole fruit might be a nice alternative, since knives, too, must be from a kosher kitchen, or a kosher brand of cookies or macaroons. A seder can be a lot of fun, but it's best not to skip lunch today in case you're holding out for a feast come sundown, because the seder ceremony can take a while and only lets you have a bite of this and that as the ritual dictates; today's Daily News breaks it down. It's an at-home kind of holiday, so if you're Pesach-curious you'll need to score an invite to a dinner, although some local eateries like Koutoubia on the Westside have Passover meals (call them for details).

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Happy Pesach, Los Angeles! Chag samayach!

Photo by chany14 via Flickr