The special feast held on the first two nights of Passover is known as Seder and Seder table is different in its setting too. Read on to know more about this.

Passover Seder

The most important holiday in the calendar of the Jews is the one that marks the Passover. This day falls on the 15th day of 'Nisan' month and is celebrated with grandeur and a lavish display of food. Perhaps, the most important Passover tradition is the feast known as 'Seder'. The Seder is performed by Jews all over the world marking the end of bad times and celebrating their freedom from Egypt. A traditional feast consisting of a lot of Matzah and other special foods made by Matzah, Seder is the mainstay of this festival. Families get together and retell the story of the Israeli movement as told in the Book of the Exodus, the 'Haggadah'. During this happy occasion, the Jews indulge in four glasses of wine each, the Seder plate, which comprises of symbolic food, and Afikoman for dessert. The night before the Passover feast is a crucial one, as the family members get together to 'clean' the house of all the 'chametz' (leftovers, scraps). The Seder plate is an important part of the Seder table and is extravagantly set with the finest china and silverware. It is customary for the Jews to recline over the table while dining to exhibit their freedom from servitude.

Pesach Seder Plate
Seder Plate And Table
The Seder plate is considered to be the most important part of the Passover tradition. Seder literally translates to "order" and is observed on the first 2 nights of the 8 days of the pomp traditional ceremonies. The table in itself holds the Seder plate as the center piece with the families and guests leaning around it. The elements of the Seder plates are as follows:
  • Maror and Chazaret - two bitter herbs
  • Charoset - a grainy mixture of fruits and nuts
  • Karpas - A vegetable preparation other than bitter herbs
  • Zeroa - A roasted piece of lamb bone
  • Beitzah - A boiled egg
Along with all the five components, it is necessary to consume brackish water to remind them of the tears wasted and shed by the Jews during times of strife.

The Four Cups
It is a convention to drink four cups of wine during the Seder. This has to be done by both men and women. The four cups of wine should be guzzled down at different points of the Seder. The first time would be for 'Kiddush', the second for 'Maggid', third for 'Birkat Hammazon', and the last one for 'Hallel'. These four cups are the intimation of God in the Exodus for the purpose of liberation from slavery. Each cup epitomizing, "I will bring out", "I will deliver", 'I will redeem" and "I will take".

Matzah And The Children
It is critical to understand that Matzah has a very important role to play during the Seder. Matzah is the unleavened bread consumed by the Jews during the Seder and for the entire week Passover week. It constantly reminds them of the moment when Jews fled in such a hurry leaving all their bread behind, not even waiting for the it to rise to a proper state. The Seder table also has three pieces of Matzah placed in a Matzah Cover. The middle piece is broken into half before the meal begins. While one half is returned to the Matzah Cover, the other half known as the 'Afikoman' is hidden. The children have to hunt for it after the Seder meal and the child who finds it gets a special reward. Some people break the Afikoman in many pieces so that each child may receive a prize. The idea is to keep the children attentive during the ceremony and remain entertained.

Seder Rituals
Seder rituals are observed and conducted by the book in a few homes, but others like to skip most parts and focus more on the Seder feast instead. Below is a concise description of the full list of rituals performed during the Passover Seder.
  • Kadesh (Sanctification) - Each member sitting around the Seder table has to fill their cups with wine, or grape juice and recite the Kiddush out loud. Once the Kiddush has been fully recited, each person can take a sip from their cups and goblets.
  • Urchatz (Washing the hands) - Water is used as a sanitizer for sins. The right hand is usually washed first, followed by the left. During the hand wash, in ancient times, prayers used to be said. In the modern times, no body recites anything.
  • Karpas (Green Vegetables) - A bitter leaf or vegetable is dipped in salt water and eaten.
  • Yachats (Breaking the Matzah) - The first half is broken and the other half of the matzah is put back into the cover. The remaining piece is used as Afikoman for the children.
  • Maggid (Story recital) - This is the time when the head or other elder family members read out the Exodus or excerpts from the Haggadah to the others present, including the children. The ancestors who struggled with enslavement are remembered and the four questions are asked. After this is done, the second cup of wine is poured and the Seder plate is discussed.
  • Rachtzah (Hand wash) - The second hand wash takes place with the appropriate blessing. After this, no one is allowed to speak.
  • Motzi  (Matzah blessings) - The blessing for bread is conducted and everyone present at the table recites a prayer
  • Matzah - This is the time when the matzah is broken down and shared by all.
  • Maror - Bitter herbs such as horseradish are consumed to remind them of the bitter times.
  • Korech sandwich - The bitter herbs are then placed between two pieces of bread and eaten.
  • Schulchan Orech - Dinner is ready to be devoured at this stage, and dessert is followed usually with flourless cake and sweets.
  • Tzafan (Afikoman) - The guests eat the Afikoman which was either hidden or stolen at the beginning. The children are rewarded handsomely with gifts.
  • Barech (Blessing) - A third cup of wine is poured with a blessing and an additional cup after that. The door is opened for the prophet to come in and bless the ritual.
  • Hallel (Songs) - Songs are sung in the praise of the lord and the final cup of wine is poured.
  • Nirtzah (conclusion) - The Seder is officially over and the Jews finish with one last saying “Next year in Jerusalem!” hoping that the next year, the Seder will happen  in Jerusalem with all their other Jewish brothers and sisters.
The Seder is a colossal affair with large families coming together for celebration. This article aimed to explain all the important components of a traditional Seder, in terms of preparation for one of your own celebrations. So be merry and try including all the rituals for your very own Seder this year. Happy Passover!