Passover always begins during the Hebrew month of Nissan – which corresponds with April 15th. At the stroke of midnight on April 15th, Jewish households and communities roar to life with Passover celebrations until they cease on April 23rd. Passover is full of traditions, rituals, and rules that practicing Jews must follow if Passover is to be properly celebrated – but the star of the show is by far the seder table and the tasty foods that fill it.
The Passover seder is symbolic of the start of a weeklong celebration – but unlike other Jewish holidays, the celebrations and services happen within homes rather than synagogues or temples. Below, we’ll look at how Jewish households and communities decorate their Passover seder table and the foods that fill it.
The Passover Seder Plate
The anchor for Passover is the seder plate – each item on a seder plate tells part of the Passover story, so it’s no wonder that it’s the star of the show on a seder table. A seder plate is divided into six sections for which six traditional and symbolic foods sit upon – click here for some beautifully elegant examples of Passover seder plates.
Karpas – green vegetables or herbs, usually parsley – holds one of the six spots and represents flourishing Israelite life in the initial years in Egypt. Haroset is a sweet fruit paste that symbolizes the mortar Israelites used to construct buildings for the Pharaoh. Maror is a bitter herb – typically horseradish – that symbolizes the bitterness of slavery and the suffering of Israelites in Egypt.
Hazeret is another bitter herb – typically Romaine lettuce – with the same symbolic meaning as Maror. Zeroa is a shank bone that symbolizes the sacrificial lamb – it remains untouched by those around a seder table. Finally, Beitzah is a roasted or hard-boiled egg that symbolizes the hagigah sacrifice.
And that’s how you fill a seder plate – arguably the most crucial attention to detail on the seder table.
Elegant Table Decorations
The seder plate is the focal point of a seder table – so any decorations around it must be subtle but elegantly beautiful. Most Jewish households chose to decorate a seder table with beautiful flowers that line the center. You might also like to put your Matzo – unleavened bread – on its own plate to enhance its symbolic meaning. The rest of the seder table decor comes from the place settings for guests.
Place Settings For Your Guests
A seder table shouldn’t be overwhelming – the focus is on the seder plate and the place settings. Traditionally, each person should have a serving plate with a silver kiddush cup – or your chosen alternative – that guests may fill no more than four times. The table should also have an untouched oversized goblet of wine for Eliyahu HaNavi. If a household is having a big party with lots of guests, some people opt to buy individual seder plates for each guest that is pre-prepared with all the symbolic foods.
Passover is a time for Jewish people to honor their freedom and traditions – and the suffering bestowed upon them during the slavery years in Egypt. The eight-day celebration is one of the most favored on the Jewish calendar celebrated worldwide. How will you celebrate Passover this year?