Though the seder is not the only element of Passover, it's definitely the shining star, and for many Jews the most joyous occasion of the year. If you've never held a seder before, setting the table can seem daunting, but it's really a straightforward process.
- Many people set out a fourth matzah, often called the "matzah of hope," as a reminder of the Jews in many lands who are not yet allowed to live in freedom.
- You'll need to supply a haggadah for every guest at your seder, and by the end of the meal, the books are likely to wind up well-thumbed and splotched with wine and food stains. For seder use, look for inexpensive paperbacks at your local synagogue's shop or a Jewish bookstore.
- For explanations of the foods on the ceremonial plate, see "How to Understand the Significance of Passover's Symbolic Foods."
- There are many ways to make charoset. You'll find recipes in most Jewish cookbooks.
- Put your best cloth on the table and arrange the festival candles and candlesticks.
- Place before the seder's leader a kiddush cup for the ceremonial wine that will be drunk four times during the meal, and a seder plate containing a roasted shank bone, karpas (a green herb or vegetable, usually parsley), a roasted egg, charoset (a paste-like mixture of fruits, nuts and wine) and maror (a bitter herb, usually horseradish, though some use romaine lettuce).
- Arrange three matzahs on the table in front of the leader, ideally in a special three-section matzah dish.
- Set out the wine. You'll need enough to serve four glasses to everyone present.
- Put at each guest's place the following: a haggadah (Passover prayer book), a wine glass, matzah, maror, charoset, salt water, karpas and a hard-boiled egg.
- Set out a special goblet to be filled with wine for the prophet Elijah.
- Make the table as festive and beautiful as you can make it. Beyond the ceremonial foods and Elijah's goblet, the accoutrements are essentially the same as they are for any other holiday dinner party.
Because the English versions of Jewish terms are translations from Hebrew, spellings of terms vary slightly.
Keep in mind that Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews observe Jewish holidays, traditions and customs in different ways.