Setting My Seder Table is An Act of Love

22 May

Each year, on the morning of hosting a seder, I remove my Pesach dishes from the high cabinets where they sit away from life during the year. Many of these amber glass dishes have been in my family since the 1930s.

Once they were my grandmother’s dishes. She collected them during the Depression, as they were given away for free or a low cost. Sometimes they came in boxes of food or were prizes presented for going to the movies. I sometimes wonder if the fact they owned a bakery gave her more access to these dishes, as she had quite a collection of one pattern.

Grandma’s depression glass was produced by the Federal Glass Company.   Our pattern is called Patrician or Spoke. Many just call it Patrician spoke because of its center design. The color is amber, although this pattern came in several colors: pink, green, clear and amber.

When I first got these glass dishes, there was not a complete set at all. Many had chips along the edges. The collection included luncheon plates, a few dinner plates, a creamer, a sugar bowl without its lid, several coffee cups, more saucers, and two serving oval serving bowl and an oval dish.

Over the years, I have filled in the set. I now have dishes to serve 18 people at Pesach: dinner plates, soup bowls, bread/butter plates, dessert bowls, and multiple serving pieces. Many of the pieces I have repurposed, like the bread and butter dishes, now used for gefilte fish. The creamers and sugar bowls are used for charoset. Small bowls sometimes are filled with salt water or eggs. I have both cereal bowls and soup bowls…all are used for matzah ball soup to start the meal.

When I first used these dishes, I would change everything for the holiday. Pots, pans, two sets of utensils, everything in the house would change. But for Pesach I just used this one set of dishes, since glass dishes could be used for milk or meat. They just needed to be cleaned in between uses. This made Pesach a bit easier.

I have to admit, over the years, I have stopped changing everything for Pesach. I still clean out the cabinets and pantry. I still stop buying bread or any product with yeast. I still buy my Kosher for Pesach food. But I no longer switch all my pots, pans, utensils and more.


My Patrician Spoke dishes, with my Rueben wine glasses and Lenox seder plate at seder.

But what I still do, and will always do, is take out my Depression glass dishes to be used for the seder. It is a minor ordeal. Someone, usually me, stands on a step stool to reach into these cabinets. Someone else, usually my son or daughter or husband stands below me as I count out the number of dishes I will need for the current seder.

They place the dishes on the clean counter.   There are many that have to be transferred. As I take out each dish, I run through the seder in my mind. What each dish will be used for; what time in the seder will it be used; what I need to still prepare for the meal.

Preparing for seder is a several day event. The foods, the dishes, the haggadah; each are planned according to the rituals and the group that is attending the seder. I have three sets of haggadahs. I switch depending on the mood and the attendees. But the one constant is my dishes.

Besides the dishes, we now bring out the seder plate.   My Lenox plate was my parents. When they stopped leading a seder, they gave me their original plate, and purchased another one for my sister. The special glasses from Murano, Italy, come out of the breakfront: one used for Elijah’s cup filled with wine; and now one for Miriam’s cup filled with water. These my husband and I took from my in-law’s home after his mother passed away when she was only 59. Each of these items bring memories as well as set our families who are gone at the table.

For many year’s I used a matzah cover created by my great grandmother in Europe in 1901.   Two years ago I donated it to a museum (see link to blog below). I now used a matzah cover I made as a teen.   But sometimes, I use one that my husband purchased for me in Cochin, India.

The small wine cups we use are Rueben glass from Israel.  One set was my parents,  I actually took all the Rueben glass when we cleaned their home for the first time.  The others were part of a wedding gift my husband and I received many years ago. We truly have a multinational seder with the items from throughout the world.

Even setting out kippot has a meaning. As we place the colorful kippot at the table, we read the names inside. Someone’s bar or bat mitzvah is remembered as well as weddings we attended. I always provide my husband the white kippah he wore at our wedding.

The napkins I use for seder are also special.  A friend made them years ago.  Twenty napkins, two sets of plagues.  Each napkin has a number, a design and a plague.

Setting the seder table is an act of love. Each dish, each ritual object carries memories.

When I put them away each year, the process reverses. I stand back on my stepstool and someone else hands me the dishes as I request.   We are done for another year. Except for one addition: I add one thing, a piece of the afikomen to keep us secure for the year until the next seder. This piece replaces the piece that I put away a year ago.


8 Responses to “Setting My Seder Table is An Act of Love”

  1. Sherry May 22, 2017 at 12:52 pm #

    Hi. Passover!! Seder tables–adults and children’s. Doris, Franklin, Roz, Bill, Larry, Audrey–adults. Childrens, Sherry, Art, Ellen, Janis, Linda, Barbara, Robin. Passover, April 8, Amy, daughter, 5 months, adopted, Korean!!!! Happiness and joy. Thank you.

    • zicharon May 22, 2017 at 12:53 pm #

      So glad I gave good memories. I so remember your Mom and Ellen, Artie and you! Glad you were altogether for Pesach!! To make more memories.

  2. Amy May 22, 2017 at 2:10 pm #

    I only started doing a seder at my own home in 2011 after my grandson was born and my mother finally conceded control to me. We bought a new set of dishes just for that purpose (we had only enough glass ones for our immediate family). We had gotten a Lenox seder plate as a wedding gift, and we finally could use it. And we also had inherited several Lenox pieces from my mother-in-law when she died—a platter, some small bowls, and a piece we use as Miriam’s cup (I think it was designed as a candy dish on a high stem). We also use her old flatware. Those pieces have become our amber Depression glass—something we only use at Passover and that we unwrap each year very delicately and with much love. It’s like she is here with us. As always, I am touched by your post.

    • zicharon May 22, 2017 at 2:12 pm #

      Thank you. I think the love and memories we are attach to these items is a symbol
      Of our search for our ancestry.

      • Amy May 22, 2017 at 2:14 pm #

        Yes, how I wish I had something tangible from my great-grandparents or earlier.

      • zicharon May 22, 2017 at 2:15 pm #

        I have several items from my great grandparents and Jay’s. They do have special
        Meaning for us.

  3. thegenealogygirl May 23, 2017 at 2:05 pm #

    What a lovely way to honor and remember so many of your family members.

    • zicharon May 23, 2017 at 5:05 pm #

      Thank you. Brings them to the table every year.

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