Traditions add meaning, fun to Seders


One of the unique challenges at Passover Seders is the variety of ages and attention spans found around the table. It is a time when families and friends come together and it isn’t unusual to find a guest or two or more — some of whom may not be Jewish. Families have special traditions at their seders and use a variety of techniques to keep everyone involved and to curb the hunger pains until the shulchan orech, the festive meal.

Food is one of the generally agreed upon diversions especially for seders involving younger children. Some families have platters of cut up vegetables on the table. Parent Cherl Wheaton keeps strawberries and whipped cream on the table. Myra Levinson recalled her mother always gave her a sweet potato as an afternoon snack so she wouldn’t be hungry during the seder.

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There are many other ways to keep a seder kid-friendly. Colleen Isele said she has placemats and crayons for coloring.

“We first used Passover themed placemats when we participated in Our Jewish Home,” Lesley Lutker said.

The plagues offer a unique opportunity to keep people involved. Washington University student Hayley Niad said her father used to buy decorative, fun frogs to put on the table and once they acted out the plagues. Essie Mitchell said she tries to keep plague-appropriate toys, gags and gadgets on hand to entertain everyone. There was also the year she wrote an interactive, reflective, role playing seder.

“We looked at different situations and talked about what Moses would do and then asked what you would do,” Mitchell said.

Keeping everybody actively involved helps guarantee the success of the seder. Many families take turns going around the table to give everybody a chance to be the leader.

“Always having us kids do the service was a great way to make sure we paid attention,” Jacob Wheaton said.

Marla Goldstein created a family Haggadah when her children were younger and they added to it every year.

“The kids did skits and we sang a lot of songs,” Goldstein said.

Cherl also used a child friendly Haggadah.

“We would change some of the parts we used each year to make it more interesting,” Cherl said.

Washington University student Estee Katcoff remembered one year when the Four Questions were done a little differently at her family seder.

“My younger sister was too shy to chant the Four Questions so she did them as a dramatic reading,” Katcoff said.

It is the little things that parents and children remember that make their seders special. Liz Soldwish-Zoole said they hide several afikomens at their house making it possible for several children to be successful in the hunt. Linda and Michael Austrin encourage their children to talk about seders the family has had over the years and share their own childhood memories of seders. Everyone gets a pillow to lean on at the seder at the Lutker’s house.

“We use every pillow in the house,” Lutker said.

Rabbi Daniel Plotkin said it was a tradition to invite anyone to their family seder who needed a place to go. He remembered bringing home many “random Jewish friends” when he was in college. Sometimes they had up to 30 people at their family seder. There is an extra reason he looks forward to the holiday today.

“It is the one Jewish holiday as a rabbi where I get to be at home and I don’t have to rush to synagogue,” Plotkin said.

Passover Seders are a time for remembering and treasuring freedom. It is also an important time for family, friends and sharing.

“Keep it family-friendly and include lots of laughter,” Denise Carle said. “And we tell the kids to keep an eye on their uncle who is in charge of hiding the afikomen.”