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Passover Traditions: The Seder Plate

Celebrated with family and friends, the Seder meal is the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover. This ritual feast, which includes eating symbolic foods, takes place around a table traditionally consisting of elegant place settings with a Seder plate as the centerpiece.

Here are some of the traditional foods served at a sedar and their meaning:

Unleavened Bread

In their haste to leave Egypt and escape slavery, the Israelites had no time to let dough rise for bread. Their only provision was matzoh, which is made of wheat but not allowed to ferment or rise. Matzoh is a perfect example of how the food we eat is intricately woven into history, traditions and culture. It is the bread of both slavery and of freedom.

Roast Lamb Bone

The roasted lamb bone symbolizes the lamb that was sacrificed at the Holy Temple of Jerusalem on the eve of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. The blood of that ancient sacrifice was used to mark the doors of the Israelites, so they might be "passed over." Today, many families substitute a chicken or turkey neck for the lamb. Whichever meat you choose, roast it in the oven until done, then scorch over a flame, like a gas burner or grill. Jewish vegetarians have been known to use a whole roasted beet instead of lamb.

Roasted Egg

Eggs symbolize the perpetual cycle of life, from birth to death to re-birth. To roast eggs, first hard boil them, then, using tongs, hold over a gas burner or candle flame.

Roasted Herbs

Fresh horseradish, without beets or vinegar, graces the Seder plate to symbolize the bitterness of slavery.


Greens, usually fresh parsley or celery tops, represent re-birth and spring.

Salt Water

The greens are traditionally dipped in salt water, which symbolizes the tears of the Hebrew slaves.


A traditional Passover dish, charoset consists of a mixture of chopped fruits, usually apples, nuts, raisins, spices and wine. The mixture represents the mortar Hebrew slaves used to make bricks for the Pharaoh Ramses II.


Our Seder table setting ideas incorporate spring color, handmade projects and kid-friendly touches to create stunning tablescapes while maintaining the formal feel required of the holiday setting.

Ranging from strictly utilitarian to elaborately decorated, Seder plates come in many different styles. Here are three ways to make yours special:

1. Set the Seder plate on a cake pedestal, and use the area underneath for extra decoration such as flowers or candles.

2. Use small bowls for each food placed on a serving tray. Consider ramekins or even egg cups in different colors or materials to create a special look.

3. Make your own Seder plate, which is a great project to do with kids and can become a family heirloom. Many online stores sell Seder plate kits, or search local businesses for make-your-own pottery shops with classes or open studios.


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Meet our Writer
Jennifer Geddes
Celebrations Writer

Jennifer Kelly Geddes has hosted Christmas cookie swaps, New Year's open houses, Thanksgiving for 22, and all manner of dinner parties in her Manhattan and Ghent, NY homes.

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