The Passover Seder is not a Passover Seder without a Seder plate in the center of the table. No matter if it is a family heirloom, fancy silver platter, or simple plate with individual dishes, it always holds the symbolic foods of this ritual feast, helping to retell the story of the Jews exodus from Egypt.
The plate itself can be a special purchased Seder plate or a simple styrofoam plate on which your children have drawn the Passover symbols.
What is important is that the six traditional items are displayed, each of which represents a different part of the Passover story. Here is your guide to preparing the Passover Seder plate.
What the 6 Symbolic Foods Mean
The Passover Haggadah—the book used to guide the Seder—states that everyone should "experience" coming out of Egypt him or herself. So the Seder is more than just reading the story and reciting prayers—it is tangible, touching on many of our senses, especially taste. Which is why foods are used to represent elements of the Passover story.
- Charoset (chopped apple mixture)—symbolic of the mortar the Jewish slaves made in their building pyramids for the Egyptians.
- Zeroa (shank bone)—reminder of the "mighty arm of G-d" as the Bible describes it. It is also symbolic of the Paschal lamb offered as the Passover sacrifice in Temple days.
- Baytzah (roasted egg)—symbolic of the regular festival sacrifice brought in the days of the Temple, as well as the cycle of life due to its round shape.
- Karpas (green herb with salt water)—representing the tears the Jews shed as slaves under Pharaoh.
- Maror (horseradish)—representing the bitter life of the Israelites during the time of their enslavement in Egypt.
- Chazeret (bitter vegetable, optional)—representing the bitterness the Jews endured in Egypt as slaves.
What You Need to Buy
At the grocery store, buy the following kosher for Passover food: apples, walnuts, red wine, cinnamon, sugar, lamb shank bone or poultry neck, egg, parsley, celery, and horseradish root or prepared horseradish.
How to Make the Symbolic Food
Each of the items on the Passover Seder plate is easy to prepare—some have no preparation at all. If you are also making the Passover meal, you will want to prepare the Seder plate long before you begin cooking the Seder meal so you are not pressured to get it ready at the last minute. Allowing children to help you put together the Seder plate is a fun and effective way to teach them about the symbolism of the food and their connection to the Passover story.
- Charoset is a mixture of apples, nuts, wine, and spices (there are different versions depending on your family's origin). To make charoset, you will need 1 cup walnuts, 1 apple, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons sugar, and red wine to moisten. Chop the nuts and apples to the consistency you want (a food processor can be used). Sprinkle with spices, moisten with wine, and mix gently. You can substitute raisins for the nuts, or add them along if you like.
- Zeroa is a lamb shank bone or neck of poultry. Roast the shank bone or neck on a foil-lined baking sheet in a 375 F oven for about 30 minutes until darkened.
- Baytzah is a roasted or hard-boiled egg. To roast the egg, place on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast in a 375 F oven, turning often, until the shell begins to brown, about 20 minutes.
- Karpas is parsley that is dipped in salt water. You can simply place a bunch of parsley next to a small bowl of salted water on the Seder plate.
- Maror is bitter herbs such as horseradish root or prepared horseradish. Place a large spoonful on the Seder plate.
- Chazeret is a bitter vegetable but celery or lettuce can be used. Those who do not put chazeret on their Seder plate sometimes use that space for the dish of salt water.