Make a Seder plate for Pesach
As with the majority of Jewish festivals, celebrations for Pesach (Passover) are centred around a special meal that is symbolic of the holiday.
The Seder plate
Displayed prominently at the head of the table at Pesach is a Seder plate. It is important because all items on the plate are reminiscent of the Passover story.
This is often represented using parsley. It symbolises the theme of spring and the idea of growth. The karpas is a symbol of the initial prosperity of the Jewish people in Egypt before the Pharaoh enslaved them.
The karpas is usually dipped in salt water—representing tears—before it is eaten. The salt water reminds us of those tears cried by the Jews during their time of slavery.
A mixture of apples, nuts and wine, haroset resembles the bricks and mortar made by the Israelite slaves when they toiled for the Pharaoh. Haroset comes from the Hebrew word "cheres" meaning "clay".
A bitter herb (usually in the form of horseradish) represents the bitterness of slavery. Maror is usually mixed with the haroset to make a clear link between the bitterness of slavery and the hard work and suffering that lies behind it.
The hazeret is a second bitter herb, often symbolised by romaine lettuce. The leaves are placed between pieces of matzo to make a sandwich (sometimes haroset is added).
The roasted shankbone represents a slaughtered lamb that was offered as a sacrifice on the eve of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. Vegetarians can substitute a roasted beetroot for the z'roa.
The round shape of the hard-boiled egg symbolises the idea of the cycle of life, and it spreads hope for new beginnings after painful times. It is customary to eat the egg (often chopped and mixed with saltwater) from the Seder plate during the meal.
Arrangement on the plate
There is no set rule as to where on the plate each item should go. Often the maror is placed at the centre with the other ingredients surrounding it.
It is possible to buy a Seder plate that has images of all the elements painted onto it. This is helpful, as you can simply place the real items over the images!
You can purchase a Seder plate very easily from Jewish shops or online. They range in cost depending on the material they are made from and how much handiwork may have gone into the decorations. A special handmade Seder plate is a generous and popular gift to buy for friends and family.
If you want to get everyone involved, follow these instructions on how to make a Seder plate from objects that can be found around the house.
You will find that there are many ways to celebrate the various themes of the holiday, and it’s very much up to you to decide how to plan the perfect Seder.
These resources will help you understand the story and create your own traditions.
- Our coverage of Jewish festivals includes a basic overview of the Passover story and its customs.
- The Passover Seder on Chabad.org examines the traditions of the entire festival of Passover.
- MyJewishLearning.com has more detailed information on the meaning behind the items on the Seder plate, as well as ideas on how to include some more modern additions to it.
- Shamash.org has an explanation of The Meaning of Passover Symbols for a deeper look at the Seder plate and other traditions associated with Passover.
- Our Sample Pesach menu has healthy recipe options to help you cook a simple, delicious dinner for Pesach.