It’s spring, and time for Passover. I just love celebrating Passover with my grandchildren. Seeing the holiday through their eyes has brought me a richer perspective on the Passover story. It has also given me a renewed sense of gratitude about the meaning of freedom and being able to share Jewish holidays and traditions with my loved ones.
Our family has developed a wonderful mix of customs over the years in preparation for the holiday. It is such a joy to see my daughter carrying on the traditions of her grandparents while also building in new rituals that provide active meaning to the story for my grandchildren. To fully appreciate the holiday’s meaning, each member of the family is involved.
Arranging for the dinner, including menu and shopping, is something my daughter and I do together. We have our favorite tried and true recipes. We often include Michele’s chicken soup with herbed matzo balls and my primavera vegetable farfel, which is a perfect accompaniment to fish, chicken or brisket. Dessert represents multiple generations: melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip meringues, Grammy’s Passover Mandelbrot using Great Aunt Dodo’s recipe, and Great Grandma Sara’s sponge cake with the season’s first strawberries.
On the evening before the holiday, I love to watch my daughter lead my grandchildren in a hunt to rid the house of chametz (food forbidden during Passover). The next day my grandchildren enjoy the responsibility of helping set the Seder table with the best dishes, candlesticks, flowers and wine glasses at each setting (grape juice for them). A nod to tradition and our grandparents fills the table with the Seder plate my daughter received as a wedding gift; the Kiddush cup (a special cup for wine) her husband received for his Bar Mitzvah for Elijah; a matzah dish covered with a special napkin my grandson decorated in Kindergarten; and a Haggadah (the book used to re-tell the story of Passover) my daughter designed herself at each place. Our family likes to include individual plates with an egg, parsley for dipping, and a piece of bitter herb. Since the Seder is a community affair, we often invite friends to join us.
My daughter puts together a basket of items you might take with you to the desert and each of us selects one to bring to the table. Before entering the dining room, the children lead us across the Red Sea by parting streamers hanging from the ceiling with celery sticks. These clever new traditions set a festive mood from which to begin our Passover story.
When we sit down to our Seder, each of us takes a turn reading from the Haggadah. When the time comes, my son-in-law breaks the middle matzah and hides the afikoman for later. The four questions, which have been carefully learned at school, are asked by each of the children, usually in Hebrew, and then repeated in English. This part of the Seder always brings a tear to my eye – to see how my grandchildren have embraced the holiday’s traditions!
Now for the fun part! When we read the story of Passover, each child at the table is given a bag with 10 objects and searches for the one representing each of the plagues. We also use finger puppets to help tell this part of the story. Then we sing “Dayenu” and open the door for Elijah. After our wonderful meal comes the search for the afikoman, and once found, Poppy always rewards each child who participated in the search.
The whole intent of the Seder is to obey the precept “…tell thy son.” It is a delightful way to teach our children the history of their people. Back when my children were little, Great Grandpa Aaron read the entire service by himself in Hebrew using the Mogen David Haggadah from the neighborhood Jewish grocer. We tried to follow along, but much of the holiday’s meaning was lost on us. Fast forward to the present day and we all participate in reading the prayers, both in Hebrew and in English, from a contemporary, kid-friendly Haggadah complete with pictures the kids have colored and new songs learned at school.
While I’m sure your family has many traditions of it’s own, I hope you enjoy your Seder as much as we do!
Sharon Moss cherishes being the grandmother to her 4 grandchildren, 2 of who live in Denver. She enjoys visiting often, especially for Jewish holidays. She almost never misses a Denver Passover!