(Pictures of different Seder plates are from the Internet. Some are very fancy; others very plain. The small circles are for the different symbols listed below. All Seder plates contain the symbols, and if you don’t have a special plate, you can use a regular platter with the different foods.)
Passover (Pesach) at my paternal grandparents was a memorable affair, because my mother was not religious and my grandparents were ultra-religious, so the event was something I still remember even though I was very young. Once my grandparents died, I don’t have strong memories of the Seder. (Seder means order, because the meal has a special order.)
What I do remember is that the meal was very long, perhaps four hours, and it was one of the nights my father came home early from his gas station/repair business close to our home and his parents’ home. Since my father worked 7 days a week from early morning to late at night, having him at the table for 4 hours was a treat!
The meal was a traditional Seder meal with all the trimmings and the story found in the Haggadah (a booklet). Perhaps the most important part of the Seder, besides the story of the Jews leaving Egypt (Exodus in the Bible) was the Seder plate with all the metaphorical symbols, listed below, which may vary with some additions as Seder’s have kept up with modern times.
Karpas (vegetables): Parsley or celery or cooked potato (as a blessing) dipped in salt water to represent Egyptian slavery of the Jews
Shank Bone: A reminder of the 10th plague when the blood of a lamb was put on Jewish doors so their families would not die. (I substitute something meatless)
Roasted Hard boiled Egg: symbolizes first food served to mourners and thus mourning the loss of the two temples is done on Passover.
Charoset: A mixture of apples, nut, wine, raisins and spices or of figs, dates and raisins, representing the mortar Jews had to make for Egyptian buildings when they were slaves.
(Maror) Horseradish: (Or bitter part of Romaine lettuce) symbolizes the embittered lives of the Jews under the Pharoes.
Chazeret (Bitter Vegetable) Romaine lettuce, which has bitter root, also represents Jews’ bitter lives in Egypt.
(Note: a Hillel sandwich is made combining charoset and horseradish between two pieces of matzoh.)
An optional addition is an orange, a recent item introduced by Jewish feminist and scholar, Susanna Herschel representing inclusiveness, specifically women and the GLBT community.
Throughout the meal, we drank wine, so I don’t really remember the exact meal, because I was probably drunk. But I do remember sitting around the table and eating and my grandfather and father being very serious about the story of Passover.
Over the years, our Seder’s have become shorter, because we are not Orthodox, but the Seder plate and 10 plagues remain. On Thursday we will attend the second night of Passover on ZOOM with our rabbis. This will probably be the most memorable Seder yet! Will share with you in a future posting.
Wherever you are, if you are celebrating Passover, be safe!