I am feeling very blessed this year and just wanted to share some post-Seder Pesach thoughts.
Growing up, our family attended 2 large Seders. Each night there were between 40-50 people (if not more). Now that may sound large, but please understand, the only crossover between the 2 nights were the 7 of us, our family of 5 and my maternal grandparents. The first night was celebrated with the family of my mothers step-father, my Pop-op, who married my grandmother a year or so after my folks were married. He was one of about 7 siblings, so there were many generations in attendance. Plus, he had two children from his first marriage, and those folks were simply our cousins. This first night was originally held in someone’s home (Aunt Bert & Uncle Harry I believe…) but eventually grew into a catered affair held at a restaurant or country club.
The second night, which we always thought about as the more “laid-back” night, was celebrated with the family of my mother’s birth father, who passed away when my mom was only 8 years old. This Seder was held at the home of my Aunt Sophie’s, my bio-grandfather’s sister plus extended family, another 40-60 people, all different from the first night except… right, the seven of us.
The next thing important for context, is BOTH Seders were led by my father, most likely because he was Israeli, a Jewish educator, and was willing to do it. Another detail for context is these Seders had been going on for many years before I can even remember. Some of my earliest memories as a child were running around the old houses of family, getting into trouble, singing the Four Questions and generally having a blast with my cousins and family. You might say (or I might) that Seders were in my blood.
As we all got older, and folks started moving away, getting married and then having kids, these Seders were an important part of our year, and we religiously returned, year after year. Both our boys attended these Seders, sang the Four Questions themselves, and got into their own fair amount of trouble. At least for me, the memories are wonderful.
So what, you might be asking, is my point? Well I’m glad you asked. My point is simply that because of how I grew up, I simply assumed that ALL Passover Seders were large affairs, with 50ish or so people, catered (or not) that were boisterous, fun and simply what you did for Passover. Imagine my surprise when I discovered this was NOT the case for all Jews everywhere. In fact, what I grew up with was fairly uncommon, and something I have learned to have great respect for. Mind you, there are no lack of large Seders, but for the most part, they tend to be communal affairs, offered by Chabad, a synagogue or a local Jewish community organization. What I experienced, for about the first 40 years of my life, of looking forward to spending the first night Seder with the Katin family, and all those aunts, uncles and cousins and then on the second night celebrating with the Kean/Rosenthal klan and their extended family, was truly something to feel proud of!
Last night, I was able to spend time with the adult child of an old friend, someone I am in limited touch with, as we live on different coasts, but for whom I have incredibly fond feelings. His daughter and her boyfriend recently moved to Seattle, and so of course we extended an invitation to join us for Pesach. “You should join us for Pesach” is something I love to say throughout the year to anyone and everyone with whom there is a fond connections and/or family or friend connections. To our delight, they accepted.
The boyfriend grew up in a suburb of NYC where some of my family live and shared that his experience growing up was really quite different, and that he was used to celebrating the holiday with the immediate family, and that’s about it. I can still recall the first year Lara and I were together, and celebrated with friends in Seattle. It was really very nice, but having only 10 or so people around the room just seemed so small – something was missing. So it was only natural that about 15 years ago, when our family Seders had gotten so much smaller as people moved away, the older generation passed on, and it was harder and harder to get everyone together, that we decided to create our own tradition. Thus began the process that eventually evolved into the first night Seder at the Litov’s!
It started as a collaborative labor of love with dear friends whose children are close to the same age as ours and with whom we shared many other things (Thanksgiving, Superbowl, Costco memberships, Seattle Children’s Museum memberships, The Pacific Science Center, Zoo, etc… you get the point). We started way back when, with just two families, but as we got into a groove, and our (or I guess “my”) comfort level grew, we started inviting other families to join us and today, our core group consists of over 20 people, among four or five families. We enjoy each other’s company, encourage their friends and family members to join, have other special friends join and also the guests for whom we’re hoping to simply provide a nice experience for.
I believe it’s been about 12 years since we’ve regularly hosted this Seder, and this year we were blessed with our largest crowd ever, numbering about 40 in all. There were even five or six folks who were also supposed to come, but could not make it, and we were kind of relieved as I’m not sure where we’d have sat them all. But that’s just part of the fun.
There is so much more to say and share but I’ve already been verbose so I’ll end with this…
Traditionally, we end a Seder by saying “Next year in Jerusalem!” but I’d like to offer the hope that your Seders next year, are ones celebrated with people you love, surrounded by family, children and friends and that it’s a meaningful but FUN experience. And if you think that’s just impossible… let us know and who knows?