Here at Gathered Gifts, we love sharing the ways that families celebrate their traditions, whether it’s introducing an old tradition to new family members and friends or sharing how your celebrations have evolved over time. Some of our favorite memories with friends are from seeing glimpses of warm moments with their families and traditions.
With Passover beginning on March 30 this year, we wanted to share a few Passover stories from the extended Gathered Gifts family. While we don’t sell Judaica products yet, we loved hearing the different ways that our friends honor Passover. And in the future, we hope to tell more of these stories and give them further spotlight and detail.
Passover is a Jewish holiday commemorating the emancipation of Israelites from slavery during ancient times in Egypt. This eight day festival is observed by avoiding leavened bread, symbolic of the bread that couldn’t rise while the Israelites were leaving Egypt after being freed. Passover is celebrated through a Passover Seder meal, with rituals shared by family and friends including retelling of the story of the Israelites’ emancipation, partaking of symbolic foods from a seder plate and sharing a meal together including matzoh (unleavened bread).
Ever since [my grown children moved out], my husband and I have gone to friends houses for Passover Seder. The Meal on the first and second night of the holiday is special since there is a Seder or ritual service and ceremonial dinner. There is a special book called The Haggadah which is read cover to cover telling the story of the liberation of the Jews from slavery. Everyone takes part in the reading and there are parts just for the children. It is participatory for all attending and places where you stop and drink wine or taste some food from the Seder plate.
Growing up, I was an only child, so we would go to a relatives house every year with lots of other family. My uncle conducted the service around the dinner table and read everything in Hebrew. I was the youngest there- so I had to read the 4 questions (a part for the youngest child) in English until I could say them in Hebrew. There is another part where the leader of the service hides a piece of the Matzo. This happens about half way through the service when the main meal is being eaten. Later the children have to go looking for it. Whoever finds it gets a prize. The service cannot be continued until the piece is found. That was one of my favorite parts of the evening as a child. My uncle always had unique prizes to give out to the finder.....I was relentless in my searching! Sometimes it would take lots of clues to find it and would take a long time to find. Often we were still at the table at 11pm. Now there are family Haggadah books that shorten the service and are more child friendly.
I grew up in a kosher home with separate dishes and silverware for meat and dairy meals. Therefore on Passover, my mother would have to move all of our dishes, silverware and pots and pans to the basement and bring up those used only on Passover. The house had to be cleaned of all leavened foods and special shopping was done for the week of Passover.
Our friend Jessy made this seder plate for her mom, Marsha
When we were kids, Passover was always a small family dinner at home. But as we've gotten older, if any of us are home with my parents, we combine seders with our very close family friends and their extended family, which is always more fun.
As a kid, I always loved the reading of the 4 questions [during the seder], because the youngest child always gets to do that and that was my time to shine at the table. Growing up, I also loved the ritual where you leave an extra place setting and a glass of wine on the table for the prophet Elijah. Later in the meal, there's a time where you're supposed to go open the door for him. It always spooked me, the promise of this ghost coming into our home to honor the holiday and drink his wine. My parents always managed to distract us (maybe during the hunt for the afikomen?) and they'd drink Elijah's wine pretending he had done so —and I always fell for it.
My favorite memories of seders are just having everyone sitting around the same table at the same time in my parents house. Now that we're older, years pass in between a chance to make that happen.
My deepest memories of Passover are of my grandfather telling us the story of how he and his family survived World War 2. My grandparents were a refugee success story who had a great life and focused on their blessings for most of the year but they rarely talked about the past, except on Passover. That was the designated time to recall all the hardship they survived and instill in our generations that didn't experience it an appreciation of how fortunate we all are.
We honor Passover by celebrating it with our family members. Since we have three little children, we like to make the rituals short and sweet, with an emphasis on the fun things like finding the Afikomen, opening the door for Elijah. We also like to have a cup of wine for Elijah, with the kids peering into it to see if he has had any of the drink.
Our most meaningful memory is simply being together and enjoying the special foods of Passover - matzoh ball soup, chocolate matzoh, chopped liver. My oldest daughter cannot get enough of chopped liver.
Top photo credit: @russanddaughters Instagram
Middle photo credit: Jessy Lobel