The ritual Passover Seder family meal includes a Seder plate with six symbolic foods. They help the family tell the story of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Family customs may vary, so you may experience a different selection if you are visiting friends during Passover or you have a different family tradition.
The Seder Plate
The Seder plate is often a special plate with places for each of the symbolic foods.
Some families have beautiful silver or china plates. But others may keep more of the tradition of the meal being eaten in preparation for fleeing and use paper plates. These can be decorated by the children of the household with places for the symbolic foods or purchased with imprinted designs. A plate is not required. You can set out a napkin and place the ceremonial foods on it.
Symbolic Foods for Passover Seder
The ceremonial foods should be prepared in advance so as to keep with the traditions. If you are preparing the items yourself, you will need these kosher items: red wine, matzoh, apples, walnuts, cinnamon, sugar, lamb shank bone, egg, parsley, celery, and horseradish.
The foods are used to add a sensory element to recalling the Passover story. This leads to a deeper experience beyond the words and prayers.
- Karpas: This is a vegetable, preferably parsley or celery, representing hope and redemption; served with a bowl of salted water to represent the tears shed. It is the first thing eaten after the kiddush.
- Matzoh: The matzohs are not placed on the Seder plate. Instead, three unleavened bread rounds are placed within the folds of a napkin as a reminder of the haste with which the Israelites fled Egypt, leaving no time for dough to rise. Two are consumed during the service, and one (the Aftkomen), is spirited away and hidden during the ceremony to be later found as a prize.
- Maror: Bitter herbs, usually horseradish, are used to symbolize the bitterness of slavery. You can place a spoonful of horseradish on the plate.
- Chazeret: This is a bitter green, often romaine lettuce or endive, which is eaten with the maror, often as a sandwich with the matzoh.
- Charoset: This is a mixture of apples or dried fruit, nuts, wine, cinnamon, and other spices. It is a reminder of the mortar used by the Jews in the construction of buildings as slaves. There are many recipes and variations. You can use this as a relish for the maror.
- Beitzah: This is a roasted egg. It is a symbol of life and the perpetuation of existence. You can use a hard-boiled egg or roast the egg in its shell in the oven. Use a 375 F oven and turn the egg often as the shell browns. It will take about 20 minutes. The egg is eaten during the meal, often dipped in the salt water which is also provided.
- Zeroah: Traditionally, this is a piece of roasted lamb shank bone, symbolizing the Paschal sacrificial offering and the outstretched arm of God. If it is difficult to fine a lamb bone, you can use a poultry neck. Roast the bone in a 375 F oven for about 30 minutes. The zeroah is not eaten at the Seder.
In addition to the traditional foods, four glasses of wine are consumed during the service to represent the four-fold promise of redemption, with a special glass left for Elijah the prophet.