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What is the traditional Passover meal?

Passover is a week-long celebration commemorating the escape of Jews from Egypt. It’s a holiday filled with very specific food traditions and restrictions.

During Passover, nothing leavened can be eaten -- so no bread, pastry, or even cereals. Some also avoid all grains that could be fermented, a list that includes barley, oats, rye, spelt or wheat.

Many Jews keep kosher during Passover even if they don’t the rest of the year. That means purchasing specially prepared meat products, avoiding the mixing of meat and milk, and forgoing pork and shellfish.

The seder meal is the center of the Passover celebration. It occurs the first night of the week-long celebration. It’s a service and a meal combined, with readings and prayers to go along with symbolic foods.

The traditional seder plate consists of six items, each with a particular meaning:

  • Maror and chazeret – both bitter herbs, usually horseradish and romaine lettuce, meant to represent the bitterness of slavery.
  • Charoset – a mixture of apples, honey, nuts and wine, which represents the mortar between the bricks of the temples the Jews built.
  • Karpas – a plain vegetable dipped in salt water. The vegetable represents the plain food eaten by Jewish slaves. The salt water symbolizes their tears.
  • Z'roa – a lamb shank bone, representing the sacrifice made immediately before leaving Egypt.
  • Beitzah – a roasted egg, for the offerings left at the Temple of Jerusalem.

The seder also involves a large meal. This can really be anything, but often it includes a braised meat like brisket, matzo ball soup and vegetable dishes.

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