What's on a Seder Plate? Passover 2018 Dinner, First Night Foods

Passover starts Friday, as does the main ritual of the holiday, the Seder dinner. The first seder is set for Friday night after sundown and the second one, for those outside of Israel, is Saturday night. The traditional meal is a custom involving the senses and involves storytelling along with the consumption of certain foods and wine.

The holiday is a celebration of the exodus of Israelites from Egypt to freedom and a new land. During the seder, stories are told and songs are sung about the escape and the difficulties that were faced before the Israelites made it out of Egypt. Each person at the seder is supposed to feel like they too, are leaving Egypt—and the symbolic foods play a part in this.

The seder plate has six spots on it for the traditional foods of the holiday. Each food has a meaning and symbolizes a part of the Passover story. The karpas, a green vegetable, sometimes parsley, symbolizes the flourish the Israelites experienced in Egypt before they were enslaved. The karpas is sometimes dipped in salt water or vinegar to represent the tears of the slaves.

Two bitter herbs on the plate also recognize the plight of slaves: The maror, which is sometimes horseradish on modern plates but was likely Romaine lettuce at one point in time, and the hazeret.

The plate typically also includes haroset or charoset, a paste made of fruits (frequently apples) and nuts,mixed with wine or honey to represent the mortar the slaves used to build while in Egypt.

The final two foods are the zeroa, or the shank bone, to symbolize the lamb that was sacrificed. For those who want to forego meat, the zeroa can be substituted with a roasted beet. The zeroa acts as more of a reminder than an active food on the table as it is just a bone.

Lastly, the beitzah on the table is an egg to represent the cycle of life and death.

Unleavened bread, matzah, is also traditionally eaten along with matzah ball soup, and wine is usually served with Passover seder dinners.