An important holiday of the Jewish faith, Passover is held to commemorate the liberation of the Jewish slaves from Egypt over 3,000 years ago. The holiday is marked by a long symbolic dinner, which features a variety of foods that help tell the many parts of the Passover story. Here, a breakdown of what you’ll see on a typical Seder plate and why.
A sweet cinnamon spread made of apples, nuts and wine, charoset represents the mortar the Hebrew slaves used to make bricks.
Bitter herbs (or “maror”)
Any bitter herb will suffice for a Seder dinner—these prompt tears to symbolize the bitterness of slavery.
The unleavened bread is one of the most recognized symbols of Passover. Three pieces are placed on the plate and covered by a cloth—and while the exact reason for the number varies, it’s agreed that the three (or trinity) is important regardless.
This green vegetable is thought to honor the coming of spring. It’s usually dipped into a bowl of salt water, and the resulting flavor represent the bitterness of slavery. In some households, boiled potatoes are used instead—a tradition which originated in Eastern Europe, where fresh green vegetables were hard to come by.
Often eaten with the salt water, the egg can symbolize both mourning and the existence of life. In some cases, a roasted egg is used for the Seder plate and serves as a visual reminder, rather than as a food that is eaten.
Roasted lamb shankbone
Designed to commemorate the lamb sacrifice the night the Jews fled Egypt, the roasted lamb is sometimes substituted for roasted beets in vegetarian households.