Jewish Relativity: A Seder Story

We had what I consider to be small seders this year ― 6 people the first night at my sister’s and only 10 (plus our 2 toddler grandchildren) here for the second night.

I am from a family of six (I have 2 brothers and a sister). My mother had two sisters – each with a spouse, one with three children and the other with five. Adding in my grandparents meant that we had 20 people at each seder. So 20 is what I always considered to be a normal-sized seder.

My husband Lou grew up with smaller seders, typically of about 6 people but on occasion up to 9 people. Over the years, he has gotten used to seders a bit larger than that, although our married life has been punctuated with negotiations about the optimal seder size.

Last year we had our first in-person family seder since the pandemic. There were 16 of us in total. Unfortunately later that night, I got a call from my sister-and-law that my brother tested positive for COVID. We had a small 2nd seder, cancelling everyone but my children and their partners, who had already been exposed at the 1st seder. We ended up with a super-spreader event, with about half of us getting sick.

We planned for two smaller seders this year ― 9-10 people at each. However the first night ended up even smaller as first one brother and then the other called to say they were sick and would not be coming.

That made me remember the opposite situation about 23 years ago, when we had the largest seder we have ever had ― about 30 people. The calls started that morning ― one of my brothers and his girlfriend had planned to go to a friend’s but the friend was sick so they asked if they could come; a family of seven that had previously declined our invite asked if they could now come; and then our son decided to invite some friends who had never been to a seder. We were in a quandary ― how to fit so many people in our dining room and what to do about dishes (no worries about food – we always prepare enough for a small army and, as I recall, we still had leftovers). At the suggestion of my cousin’s husband, we re-arranged the furniture so the seder could be in our 30-foot living room rather in the now too-small dining room ― Hussein is Egyptian and apparently in Egypt there are no designated living and dining rooms but room use is fluid. Lou made an emergency run to Party City and this became the first year that we used disposable paper goods (so easy to clean up after!).

We enjoyed our much smaller seders tremendously this year. We’ve added a new generation ― our 4-year-old grand-niece and 21-month-old twin granddaughters, with another grandchild due before next year’s seders. I expect that seders will be much different during the next few years to accommodate them, maybe even changing my ideas about the perfect seder size.

Chag sameach.

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