Passover is the Jewish holiday that celebrates the Israelites’ exodus and freedom from slavery under the Egyptians. The Passover Seder is a ritual feast–full of ceremony and symbolism–that marks the beginning of Passover. It involves retelling the story of the exodus from Egypt together with dinner. The Seder plate contains symbolic foods, each with special significance to the story.
I only recently started to learn about the Seder plate at my first Passover dinner. It is rich with history and meaning, but to a newcomer and to children, it can be a bit hard to remember the details. I chose to make a Seder placemat to help me and my daughters remember the foods more easily.
This craft is a good one to set up while a parent is still preparing for the rest of the event. Children often want something to do while we are busy with special preparations. This is a perfect way to help them learn about the holiday and keep their little fingers busy while parents work on the dinner.
Here’s a brief background on the Seder plate before we begin the craft. If you think of the Seder plate as a clock, then twelve o’clock would be the maror–the bitter food to represent the hard times the Jews spent in slavery. This is usually signified by horseradish. At the one-to-two o’clock position is the zeroa, or roasted lamb. While some folks employ other meat here, vegetarians tend to use beets. The meat symbolizes the lamb that the Jews sacrificed before the first Passover. In the four-to-five o’clock position is the charoset, a mixture of fruits, nuts and wine that is brownish in color (some have simply used applesauce). The charoset denotes the mortar between the bricks that the Jewish slaves used in building the ancient structures for the Egyptians. At six o’clock, you find the hazeret–romaine lettuce–another bitter vegetable representing the horror of enslavement. Next around the clock is karpas, a non-bitter vegetable (e.g., raw onion or boiled potato), which is dipped in salt water as a symbol of the tears of those where were enslaved. The last piece is beitzah, a boiled egg. In the times of Exodus, people were given a boiled egg during a period of mourning.
And now here’s what you need to make your own Seder placemats.
Multicolored construction paper
A plate or bowl for tracing circles
1. I started with a large piece of construction paper, 9’x12’; we chose pink, because that is my daughter’s favorite color. Then, in other colors of no importance, I used a bowl as a template and created six circles to use as the backgrounds to the food on the plate.
I have many materials in my craft closet and decided to use craft foam for the foods. However, I don’t think this is necessary–in fact, I think using more construction paper would be more prudent if you actually want to use your placemat during a meal. But, the craft foam was calling to me!
2. I cut out a lamb shank from the red foam. Then I cut apple pieces (for the apple sauce) out of the red and white foams. I cut a piece of romaine lettuce from the green foam and then an onion from the yellow and green foam. I then made a slice of boiled eggs from the yellow and white and ended with a white horseradish with greenery on top. I didn’t trace the shapes or spend a great deal of time practicing them before I cut. Craft foam is a fairly forgiving material and very easy to work with.
3. After I cut out all the pieces, I set my daughter up with a small cup of wet glue and a paintbrush and let her paste the foam pieces onto the circles. Then I showed her the proper arrangement on the placemat so she could glue them herself.
I have a vision of practicing this Seder plate with my children every year, using other crafts to create the plate. In this way, by the time they are old enough to be trusted with a beautiful ceramic plate, they will know what everything is for!
Have fun and enjoy your time with friends and family!
For further information:
This website is full of helpful information about the Seder plate, and also discusses how to properly perform a Seder and Passover dinner.
And check out here for the perfect Passover recipe for gefilte fish.