The Jewish holiday Passover, or Pesach, commemorates the Hebrews' exodus from Egypt. It begins with a traditional dinner called a seder on the first night, when the Exodus tale is retold.
Step 1: Invite guests Invite guests to the seder. Passover is a time for community, and a seder may include family, friends, coworkers, and/or neighbors, both Jewish and non-Jewish.
Step 2: Clean and remove chametz Clean your house from top to bottom. Remove all chametz, or bread and other leavened foods. This is done in remembrance of the Jews who did not have time for dough to rise before escaping captivity. Use utensils that are designated strictly for Passover, to eliminate the possibility of coming into contact with chametz.
Step 3: Select the Haggadah Select the Haggadah – the book with the Exodus story and instructions for the seder. Haggadahs vary by their adherence to tradition, overall length, and the amount of Hebrew used. Have several of the edition you’ve chosen on hand, ideally one per person.
Step 4: Prepare dinner Plan and prepare a kosher dinner, which is eaten after the Exodus story is recounted. Finish cooking the meal before people arrive, since once the seder has begun you shouldn’t do any cooking.
TIP: The meal may not include any bread or other leavened foods. Typical dishes include braised brisket, matzo ball soup, chopped liver, potato kugel, and almond cake.
Step 5: Set aside matzo Place three matzos folded into a white cloth so that none of the matzos touches each other.
Step 6: Have wine on hand Set aside kosher wine and cups that will be used at certain points during the seder. Make sure to have at least four glasses of wine per adult.
Step 7: Roast a bone Roast a shankbone, called zeroa, as a symbol of the paschal lamb Jews during biblical times would have offered as the Pesach sacrifice. Any meat or poultry bone is okay, though lamb is traditional.
TIP: In a vegetarian household, substitute a roasted beet for the bone.
Step 8: Boil an egg Hard-boil an egg; then roast it in the oven until the shell browns slightly. The roasted egg, or beitzah, represents the loss of the Temple and the hope that it will be rebuilt some day. Its shape also symbolizes the circle of life.
Step 9: Make the charoset Make the charoset, the fruit and nut mixture. The mixture symbolizes the slave labor Egyptians forced Jews to perform with bricks and mortar.
TIP: Common ingredients for Jews of Eastern European descent include apples, walnuts, red wine, and cinnamon, while Sephardic Jews often use dates, dried figs, and cardamom.
Step 10: Prepare the first bitter herb Prepare the maror, which represents the bitterness of slavery. If using romaine lettuce, make sure to inspect for bugs, since they’re not kosher. Many people use grated horseradish.
Step 11: Prepare the second bitter herb Prepare the second bitter herb, like lettuce or radishes. This is called chazeret, and is combined with the charoset and matzo in a sandwich called the korech.
TIP: You may also use another helping of maror in the korech sandwich and omit the chazeret on the seder plate.
Step 12: Wash vegetables and dissolve salt Wash vegetables such as celery or parsley for the karpas. The greens symbolize rebirth from slavery and the season of spring. Dissolve salt into a bowl of water, which represents the tears of the slaves. During the seder, the karpas will be dipped into the salt water.
Step 13: Arrange the plate Place the six items on the seder plate. Depending on the number of guests you’re having, you may need more than one seder plate. Generally the egg goes next to the bone, and the maror next to the charoset.
Step 14: Get ready for your guests The seder is ready – now get yourself ready!
FACT: In Israel, Passover lasts seven days, while outside Israel it’s an eight-day holiday.
You Will Need
Dishes and utensils specifically for Passover
A shankbone (zeroa)
A roasted egg (beitzah)
A fruit and nut mixture (charoset)
Bitter herbs (maror) like romaine lettuce or horseradish