I wait for it with anticipation every year. I never know exactly when it will happen, but I start looking forward to it when May arrives right on schedule. It is usually preceded by the arrival of lilacs, though often they come at the same time. Every year come spring I look forward to the annual arrival of the peonies at Trader Joes.
Glorious in their fragrance, elegant in their shape, I believe peonies are the ballerinas of the flower world.
Unfortunately these gorgeous blooms don’t grow here in Southern California, but thanks to Trader Joes I can still delight in them every year for at least a few weeks.
As fate would have it, the peonies always show up during the time of my favorite Jewish holiday known as Shavuot. Essentially the holiday celebrates Hashem giving the Torah to Moses and the Jews. My favorite part of the holiday are the symbols of flowers and milk. When we (the Jews) got the Torah there were rules for how we were to slaughter our meat and prepare it to make it kosher. But because the Jews had only just received this information there was no meat that had been prepared in the correct way. So for a few days all there was to eat was dairy and parve (neither milk nor meat such as fruit and vegetables). We continue this tradition today. As for the flowers, it is said that Mount Sinai bloomed when Moses received the Torah so we recreate this by filling our homes with flowers.
I have always wanted to have a Shavuot table with peonies spilling down the middle, and this was the year I finally got to do it. I added some jasmine vines from my garden and then set the table with a vintage set of floral china.
In order to bring some height to the table, I placed a single peony blossom on top of a crystal candle holder. This trick can easily be used in your own home by using any type of large blossom such as a dahlia or chrysanthemum.
I also used votive candle holders to hold the peonies. Notice the hobnail glass candle holder directly above? This is a great way to have scattered blossoms around your table.
There you have my version of a Shavout tablescape full of blossoming peonies. Of course you don’t have to be Jewish to celebrate this beautiful flower. Just invite a few friends over for a casual dinner and then load up your table with peonies. They are beautiful, whimsical and they don’t last long so enjoy them while you still can!