Passover Seder in Guatemala (or: a story about Charoset)

MAR 26,2013 - MAR 27,2013 (2 DAYS)






On Passover eve we studied Spanish all through the morning, and volunteered for the first time in the local orphan home, so we didn’t have that much time to organize the Seder. Still, we managed to celebrate a traditional Jewish Seder with our adopting Guatemalan family. We had a grandma (not ours, let’s not get caught up in small details), we had Matzos (not sure that the Rabbi would have approved, but they did the job), wine (in a carton box from the local store), and a hardboiled egg (nothing different here). We had Charoset (with an improved recipe), a Zeroa (shank bone from a fast food chain), and Karpas (fresh lettuce). We had Maror (chili jalapeño), and a lot of traditional food (soup, tostados, chicken). As I said, a traditional Jewish Seder.

The whole day long we felt that special holiday feeling, not just for us – but for everyone in the streets. At first we thought we were imagining things, but then we remembered that our fellow Christian Guatemalans are celebrating Semana Santa (the holy week).

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When I called my two (real) grandmas to say happy Passover, I asked each one what’s her recipe for Charoset. My polish grandma said “apples, English walnuts (Juglans regia) and wine”. My Yemenite grandma said “fresh dates, date dough, date honey, and if you want you can add raisins or ginger”.

We chose the Yemenite version, and for a lack of dates we decided to give it a Latin twist, using tamarind instead (also known as Indian dates; in Hebrew, one should note, a date is called “Tamar”). But after we discovered that the tamarind dough in the market is made with the tamarind seeds inside, we went back to the polish version, and though how we can improve it. We decided to add some raisins, honey and ginger. Instead of English walnuts (we couldn’t find any) we used almonds. For anyone who is interested in traditional Jewish Passover food (with a Guatemalan flavor), here is the recipe:

  • 4 medium size grated apples
  • 150 gr chopped raisins
  • 150 gr chopped almonds
  • 2 spoons of honey
  • 4 spoons of wine
  • 1 spoon of a really sweet Guatemalan apple juice
  • some grated ginger
  • some grounded cinnamon

Just mix everything together in a fancy bowl.

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After leaving the orphan home around 18:00, we took a ten minute rest before we started to work on the Charoset and the Matzos. We even made a special Seder plate (as you can see above), and after fixing the table we called the whole family for the Seder. We tried to find a Haggadah in Spanish in order to read some selected parts, but had no such luck. So we just explained some of the holiday rituals, and I said the blessings from memory in stuttered Spanish. Well, they say it’s the thought that counts…

All and all it was a lot of fun. The Matzos came out pretty lame, but that’s the way Matzos are. The Charoset was excellent, and our Guatemalan family loved it. They are already planning how to incorporate the new dish in everyday meals. They say it will fit very nicely on some warm tasteful pancakes. I do believe they are right.

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