A Rabbi's Five Best Tips for Hiding the Afikomen on Passover
While every moment of the Passover Seder is designed to be interactive and enjoyable, hiding the afikomen—a broken piece of matzoh—is often a beloved part of the day among families. The matzoh is broken during the ceremony but not hunted until the end, giving the littlest ones at the table an extra reason to keep paying attention. "Mostly, hiding the afikomen is about creating an engaging few moments at the end of the Seder to keep everyone involved and on their toes," says Rabbi Leora Kaye, director of program for the Union for Reform Judaism. "The Seder experience is intended to be interactive throughout. Searching for the afikomen isn't the last thing we do, though it is intended to be the last thing we eat. Once it is found, it is broken up so that everyone has a chance to have a bite—but is definitely a fun stop along the way." Kaye offers her best advice—sourced from her own family and friends—for deciding who, where, and how to hide the afikomen at your Seder.
Set some ground rules.
Who hides the afikomen and the physical boundaries that constrain the hiding spots are key ground rules that your family should consider together, says Kaye. "Each family may do it a bit differently—some may limit to just the room in which the Seder is taking place, or some may say anywhere in the house or apartment is fair game," she says. "One family may have a Seder leader, the person who is responsible for hiding, who will only hide within arm's reach of where they are sitting, or others may decide that they will only hide the afikomen in places everyone can reach. But once the ground rules are in place, everyone has a better time with it; they feel like everyone has the chance to be the finder."
Make it a little more interesting.
Finding the afikomen often comes with a reward or small gift, says Kaye. "Sometimes it is a toy, money, a game—in some families it is a big gift, some just a token." More competitive families also offer the finder the chance to "hold the afikomen up for ransom," says Kaye, "asking for a better 'gift' or even money, and some families who do use money will offer something special, like a dollar coin."
Find a hiding spot.
While there's technically only one afikomen in the Seder, families might also choose to tweak tradition to give larger groups of kids a better chance of success. "Some families only hide the one afikomen, while other families may find a way to hide a few, allowing either all the children to find one, or at least more than just one kid," says Kaye. In one family she knows, the afikomen is hidden repeatedly: Each time one child finds it, the hider chooses a new spot, until everyone has a chance at success. When it's time to find the best hiding spot for the afikomen, explains Kaye, "There are two schools of thought on this: hide in plain sight, or hide in a very clever, out-of-the-way, need-to-work-hard spot."
Trick their eyes.
Leaving the afikomen out in the open might seem a little too easy, but it can present a surprising challenge, as the kids have to truly focus on perusing items they see every day. "The plain sight people go with places like in the folds of the curtain, on top of the bookshelf, or between two books," notes Kaye. "Maybe they will go as far as under the carpet, or literally under the plate of the person leading the Seder, but their general thinking is, people are so used to seeing what they expect they will never see it here. My kids definitely get pretty competitive—they follow in the well-tread footsteps of their parents, aunts, and cousins who have taught them how to use a sharp elbow when needed—but tend to like the in-plain-sight spots most."
Increase the difficulty.
The serious hiders skip easy-to-see spots for more intensive, nearly impossible nooks and crannies. "They will look for the most out of the way places possible—maybe in a drawer nobody looks in, under all the kids' art projects from years past," shares Kaye. "Or they will hide it in the bathroom cabinet under four out of seven stacked towels, meaning you have to pick up each towel to see if it is between any of them. Their thinking is, we have to make these kids work for it—it may mean that the house is a mess when they are done, but it will have been fun."