It is typical to have a seder, either the first or second night of Passover, but you can have a seder any night of Passover.
How to set the seder table for Passover.
Make sure to include:
A Seder plate with:
1) a roasted lamb bone or chicken bone,
2) a roasted egg,
3) parsley or celery for the greens,
4) lettuce or other bitter herb,
5) horseradish and
(See recipe for Passover Charoses below.)
Some families also now include an orange on the seder plate. An orange is something new and non-traditional for Passover. It symbolizes that there are now female rabbis in Judaism which is also relatively new. The rabbis of old use to say women would become rabbis when an orange was on a seder plate. We now have female rabbis which means we now put oranges on the seder plate. However, you don’t have to use an orange.
On the table there should be three Matzos on a plate with a cover over the Matzos (or a napkin), extra parsley or celery, salt water, extra charoses, extra horseradish, and a Kiddush cup filled with wine for Elijah. You will need two sabbath candles in nice candlesticks. Have extra matches for lighting the candles handy which you can reach for during the seder.
The middle matzah is typically broken during the seder and hidden, but some families break the middle matzah before the seder starts and hide it away so they don’t forget to do this. After dinner is finished, children look with great delight for this hidden matzah. The person who finds it at the end of dinner typically gets a small prize, money or candy.
For horseradish, if you buy it in the store, the red version is typically a little less hot, and it is more colorful for the table.
Some Seders now also include a cup for Miriam who is credited in the Passover Story with telling Moses that he was Jewish. We also learned recently of a tradition of Jews from Iran which is to add a spring onion to the Seder plate which is used to playfully hit people with around the table when singing “Let My People Go” or another song as a reminder of whips used during slavery, but this is not typical during American seders.
The Seder table is usually spread with the best of the family’s china, fancy tablecloth, wine glasses, and silverware, and adorned with flowers and two sabbath candles, in keeping with the festive spirit. But don’t feel guilty to use Passover party plates to make it easier to cleanup. There are very nicely decorated paper products for Passover now.
Many families also provide pillows for the chairs in accordance with the thought that free people are suppose to lean and relax; athough I find this uncomfortable so I personally don’t use pillows. In addition, Haggadahs should be provided at each place setting, water glasses, if desired, song sheets, and crayons or fun activities for young children.
I typically have two small plates out and a soup plate before dinner starts. The first plate (appetizer size) is small for the seder ceremony. On this small plate, you make a Hillel matzah sandwich with the charoses. The second plate is a salad plate for salad or gifilte fish. These plates are set on top of the dinner plate so I just have to remove the plates for each new course. The soup dish is for the matzah ball soup. All this is cleared away and then dinner starts. Then you need a desert plate, spoons and coffee cups for tea or coffee after dinner.
3 Apples, peeled, cored, chopped well
3/4 teas. ground cinnamon or to taste
3 Tablespoons of either Kosher Red Wine or Grape Juice
2 teas. sugar or honey
½ Cup Walnuts or Pecans, chopped well
Raisins, optional, chopped well
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and pour into a nice serving dish.
A double batch will be needed for a large seder.
Whole Foods also often sells Charoses if you don’t have time to make it. Sometimes, I’ve seen whole seder plates made up for Passover as well. Our local Whole Foods store sells them for about $15 or $20.
What do you serve for Passover? There are lots of choices, but our Passover seder typically includes either salad, hard boiled eggs, or gifilte fish for the first course, matzah ball soup, lamb chops, roast chicken or brisket (See Cousin Roberta’s Brisket as a Passover favorite). The gifilte fish is served on lettuce leaves with horseradish sauce on the side. If you’re new to hosting a seder, or in a rush, you can find pre-made matzah ball soup in jars in the kosher section of any grocery store which is typically very good too.
If you don’t have a seder plate, you can also use a nice plate to put the ceremonial seder foods on.
Finally, familes have sparkling cider, kosher wine or grape juice for the four cups of wine. Often people also have ceremonial items on the table such as glass frogs, to represent the plagues. Some people throw cotton balls, or small soft balls, to represent the plague of hail, but these are all new additions to the seder to make things fun for the kids. You don’t need them. Don’t forget to have small toys, candy, prizes or dollar bills on hand to give to the kids when they find the matzah at the end of the dinner. I like to give a little something to each child, and a bigger something to the person who finds the matzah.
Click here for Passover songs to sing at the end of the seder.
And don’t forget to have fun! It’s Passover!