Monday, April 18, 2011

The Passover Seder

Jews Celebrating Passover. Ukrainian lubok, XIXth century.

This evening begins the first night of Passover, one of my favorite Jewish holidays.

The Passover seder of retelling & reliving the story of the liberation of the Israelites from the slavery in Egypt is a ritual that has been conducted annually by the Jewish people for over 3,300 years.

Tiered seder plate that holds symbolic foods; Eastern Galicia or Western Ukraine, 18th-19th century; The Jewish Museum, New York

The many rituals and symbols of Passover make this such a special holiday. During the seder I always imagine people all over the world doing the exact same prayers, eating the same foods, the children singing the same songs. I love tradition.

19th century matzah covers from The Magnes Museum Collection

Passover textiles include specially designed covers for the matzah, the unleavened bread eaten during the Passover seder. Not very tasty, but you get used to it and like it. It's sort of like a big cracker.

Last year I was in Round Top, Texas for an antiques show. It just so happened that it fell during Passover and the owners of the Bed & Breakfast that we were staying at invited us to their seder. It was so much fun experiencing a seder in another home with the same traditions, but some different things, such as this Schmura matzah (above).

I wondered, what is Schmura matzoh? I always had the regular square-shaped matzah. Shmura matzah is carefully supervised by a rabbi from the moment the grain is harvested until the finished matzahs are packaged. So, basically, the closest to the matzah that they ate thousands of years ago. Apparently you can only find this matzah in select stores on the East Coast. It wasn't my favorite.

But, who doesn't love homemade matzah ball soup any time of year?

my matzah cover, c. 1900

We will be having our seder at my mother-in-law's house, but thought I'd share this old matzah cover (above) that was passed down to me from my great-grandparents, or perhaps great, great-grandparents. It must date around the turn of the 20th century. I just love its detail and hand embroidery, and cherish it as a part of my people's history.

Wishing all who celebrate a Happy Passover!

3 comments:

Jana said...

What amazing detail in the coverings. Hope you have a wonderful Passover!

Paris Hotel Boutique said...

Thanks so much Jana!

creakypavillion said...

Thank you, Lynn, happy Passover to you!