Julie Gruenbaum Fax, “DIYers take on Pesach”
My boyfriend picked this up in the aisle of Stop and Shop the other day when we were buying kosher chocolate to bring to his very first seder (and only my second) with a colleague.
"Is it free?" he said, then tossed it into the cart.
He wants to educate himself about Passover before we go. (Neither of us are Jewish, but I work for a Jewish organization, so have heard a lot of stories about seders.) Though I know my colleague won’t be using the Maxwell House haggadah, there’s no better way to learn about the seder than reading through it!
lynn sweet, chicago sun-times
My earliest memories of our seders in the Bronx do include the Maxwell
House Haggadahs. I remember they always had a blue cover and they
were always stained with wine. Being a child I could only read the
English side of the Passover story, but never understood it—the
archaic words and spelling made no sense to me. Many years and
generations later I still think the English stinks, but I now make the
seder both nights and still use the Maxwell House Haggadah. It no
longer has a blue cover, but it still does collect wine stains. One
year my son downloaded a Haggadah from the internet; we all hated it
(that includes the family members who are not Jewish and who follow
the story in English) and insisted that we use OUR regular haggadahs.
But I do see that the 2012 edition of the Maxwell House Haggadah has a
new modern translation, and if I can score enough copies of it by next
year we can celebrate the new version in 2013.
My memories of the Maxwell House Haggadah are closely tied in with my memories of Passover during my growing up years (the late 1940’s to about 1960.) It was our family’s custom to have the first seder at my parent’s apartment and the second at my father’s sister’s. (We are all New Yorkers so we were apartment dwellers.) I struggle to have a seder now with three refrigerators and three freezers. My mother had one refrigerator only slightly larger than a dorm-size, and somehow all 25 guests were royally accommodated.
I think in my earliest memories, I thought that coffee was a required Passover food since it was on the back of our Haggadahs. Since I was just a little girl, I felt exempt from that requirement which was a good thing since I had not yet developed my taste for coffee. We still talk about some of the “funny” words in that Haggadah – things like “verily” and “a grievous murrain.” During our seders we took turns reading the narratives in English, but my grandmother steadfastly read her Haggadah in Hebrew maintaining that G-d did not understand English.
We were all very attentive to the Passover story, but yet we were also rather irreverent. Being taken by the word “verily,” we decided that each seder guest would contribute a quarter to the “verily pool” and the first person to read that word would win all of the proceeds. ($6.00 was a princely sum in those days.) Because we had a few different Haggadahs, my older brother thought he could trick us. We saw through his ruse, though, when he tried to convince us that Rabbi Verily was studying with his disciples in Tarfon.
No self-respecting Haggadah – then or now – would be complete without the wine stains on the plague page. No seder would be complete without the swapping of the “failure” hard matzo balls that many of us preferred with the soft fluffy ones which were my Mom’s pride and glory. No seder would also be complete without the peals of laughter which accompanied all of our family get togethers – then and now.
As you can see, your request for Maxwell House memories has touched upon some of my happiest times. (It did not hurt that I was by far the youngest child in the family and therefore doted on.) Perhaps for all of these reasons, although Passover is themost labor intensive holiday for me, it is also my favorite.
(And now I must stop writing and clean another cabinet.)
My childhood seder memories go back to Europe, Hungary, where we did not have the Maxwell House Hagaddah. However, arriving to the U.S.A. as a teen eager living with relatives, Maxwell House Hagaddah was our guide at the seder. [I] have warm memories [of] turning the pages & knowing how fortunate [we were to be] living in a free society, where a large coffee company is involved [in] printing & free distribution making sure not only to invite (come who are hungry) but making sure for the ones who can’t afford one will have a Hagadda.
Sorry to tell you, we haven’t used it in years, but I do remember that even after we were married, when my mother’s whole side of the family (once we were over 50 people, all close relatives) we would always count on the fact that if we needed more haggadot we could always count on finding the Maxwell House ones at the nearest supermarket.
March 23, 2012