On April 18th at precisely sundown, the first night of Passover will commence. At exactly this moment, there will be millions of Jewish people all over the world doing the same thing they’ve been doing for thousands of years!: celebrating with their families at the Seder table.
The Haggadah (a blow-by-blow instruction booklet on how to run your seder ) will be read; it's a text that tells the 2,500-year-old story of the Jewish people escaping slavery, led by Moses, the plagues and being in such a rush to get out of Egypt that they weren't able to wait until their bread rose (hence, why we eat Matzoh — “the bread of affliction”).
On the table is the Seder plate-- a very beautiful and symbolic representation of what the Jews went through during slavery: salt water representing tears we shed; roasted shank bone representing the Pascal Lamb; horseradish or some other bitter herb representing the bitterness we felt; a roasted egg representing festival sacrifice; charoses, a combination of walnuts, wine, apples and cinnamon representing the mortar for the bricks we made and carried; and lettuce or parsley representing spring renewal.
Finally, there is the plate with the Matzoh on it. There are three; the middle one is broken in half (the middle one is called the "afikomen"). The youngest child “steals” it, hides it, and the leader of the seder has to find it. There is a good sense of humor to this, as the leader has to buy it from the child by bargaining. This story coincides with Easter, and though it’s not the same story, it starts the same way; Leonardo DiVinci’s “Last Supper” was a Passover seder. Check out an up-to-date, condensed (and funny) version of the telling here.
Foods Present at an Ashkenazic Seder:
• Chicken Soup with Matzoh balls (no noodles)
• Gefilte Fish with horseradish (basically a fishcake)
• Salad (no cheese in it, only oil that could be used is olive or cottonseed)
• Turkey with Matzoh stuffing, or roast chicken.
• Veggies (no beans, including string beans!!) Broccoli (no cheese sauce), brussel sprouts, spinach, many times in kugel form, because it could be baking during the seder.
• Tsimmes (a root stew, usually made with meat and lots of tubers and carrots, usually on the sweet side with honey)
• Gravy for the stuffing which cannot be thickened with flour, must use potato starch
• Dessert: things with fruit (but no milk), coconut (macaroons), cakes made from matzoh meal (dry and mostly awful), sponge jelly roll or cakes made with nut flour (better). Coffee or Tea, no milk.