Symbolism of the foods from Passover

Symbolism of the foods from Passover (Pesach in Hebrew)


This year, Passover begins at sundown, Wednesday, April 5 and runs through Thursday, April 13.  Like many Jewish holidays, Passover is home-based, and every year, my family gathers with several friends to celebrate.  We read the Haggadah which tells the story commemorating the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.  Families gather to share a meal which is preceded by a traditional service, called a Seder, which retells the story of the Jews’ hasty departure from Egypt.  Traditional foods are eaten, and 4 glasses of wine (or a smaller amount) are part of the ceremony.  This is one of my favorite holidays; I love the retelling of the Passover story which combines the significance of the holiday with a wonderful meal. There are songs and other fun activities that weave in lots of symbolism which make for a festive time.  This holiday really tickles my inner cultural anthropologist with all of the symbolism.  

Included in my prints collection, Illustrated Feast, is a Seder plate which features the symbolic foods of Passover.  Matzoh, the unleavened bread the Jews took with them, plays a central role, highlighting their hasty departure, leaving in such a hurry there was no time to let their bread rise.  Leavened breads and other baked goods, as well as anything else made with wheat, barley, oats, spelt or rye are not eaten throughout the holiday.

Other traditional foods on the Seder plate include:

Zeroah - Lamb Bone, an offering to God - on the Seder plate, but not actually eaten

Chazeret – A green for Spring, sometimes a bitter lettuce such as endive or romaine (optional)

Beitzah - Egg symbolizes new and ongoing life

Karpas - Parsley represents hope and redemption

Maror - Horseradish - Represents the bitterness of slavery

Charoset - Apple/nut mixture reminiscent of the mortar used to build the pyramids

The story of Passover can be found in the Old Testament, Book of Exodus and is considered one of the major holidays of the Jewish faith, a celebration of emancipation from slavery as well as the renewal of Springtime.  For children, I recommend, A Children’s Haggadah, by Howard I. Bogot and Robert J. Orkand with beautiful watercolor illustrations by Devis Grebu.

If you’re in DC, check out the Passover programming at the

Synagogue, 6th and I .