PASSOVER: The Seder Dinner


The Seder Dinner

Got matzah? That’s a good start in preparing for Passover, which begins at sundown Monday, March 25, and continues through Tuesday, April 2, this year. But many other additional foods and items are needed to perform a Seder (meaning “order” in Hebrew), the annual ceremonial dinner held on the first two nights of the holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt.

 The Seder Plate

The focus of the Seder table is the Seder plate, which can range from a laminated preschooler’s Passover art project to elegant glass, silver, ceramic, or metal interpretations.

All Seder plates must feature areas for particular, required religious symbols that include:

  • a green vegetable (to be dipped in saltwater reminiscent of the tears
    shed in slavery)
  • roasted shank bone or poultry neck (representing the sacrificial lamb)
  • hard-boiled egg (a sign of mourning)
  • charoset (a mixture of apples, nuts, and wine resembling the mortar
    used by slaves to build Egyptian structures)
  • bitter herbs (often horseradish, as a reminder of how harsh life in
    servitude was)
  • a bitter vegetable (often romaine lettuce, which has bitter roots —
    another sign of how difficult living in captivity was)

These icons remain on the Seder plate while portions of certain symbols are set out on the table for all to eat at times specified as the Seder progresses.

Seder Readings

Throughout the Seder, each participant reads from a Haggadah (Hebrew for “telling”), a booklet of the Seder blessings, Exodus story, and Passover songs in a specific order. The basic content is the same, but all kinds of Haggadahs are available to present it.

The Four Cups and Matzah

Along with consuming the ritualistic foods and then a full dinner, each person drinks four glasses of wine, celebrating freedom and four aspects of God redeeming the Jewish people. The Seder ceremony ends with the eating of the afikoman, a portion of matzah that has been hidden and found during the evening in a fun effort to involve the children. This matzah is eaten last, after dessert, so that the ‘taste’ of the Seder ceremony remains with participants.

 Other Traditions

Although age-old traditions provide the framework of the Seder, contemporary variations can bring personal relevance to the event. Some people include an orange among the Seder foods, honoring the fruitful role women and homosexuals play in Jewish life. Others place an olive on the Seder plate to signal hope for world peace. Vegetarians replace the shank bone with a roasted beet. No matter how the ritualistic symbols are displayed or interpreted at the Seder, they are indeed food for thought on this very special holiday.

For delicious charoset recipes, go to

Visit to see a large selection of Passover and other holiday, birthday and non-occasion ecards. To send the Passover card shown, click here or on the image above.