Tonight is the first night of Passover. At the Passover Seder, families gather around the dinner table to read the Haggadah, learning about the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. The Seder is one of the most interesting meals in the Jewish culinary tradition, because every dish possesses significance. During the reading of the Haggadah, a Seder Plate is used to hold different symbolic foods. From maror, horseradish that symbolizes the bitterness of slavery in Egypt, to charoset, a mixture of nuts and apples that represents the slaves' mortar, every item has special ritual importance. The Seder Plate also holds three pieces of matzoh, a kind of unleavened bread.
For the duration of Passover, Jews do not eat leavened bread. When the Jews were fleeing Egypt, they did not have time to let their bread rise. Rather, they carried with them the unleavened bread, which today is referred to as matzoh. At the end of the Seder, children search for a hidden piece of matzoh called the afikoman. Whoever finds the afikoman receives a prize.
The meal itself usually consists of a roasted meat such as lamb or brisket, matzo ball soup, a type of fish forcemeat called gefilte fish, and desserts made without bread products or ordinary flour. Along with four cups of wine and the other ceremonial foods, the meal can last for hours and leave participants exceedingly full.
Passover is an opportunity to celebrate the liberation of the Jews from Egypt and to lament those who are not yet free. In particular, the Passover Seder is one of the most significant meals of the year for Jews of all orthodoxies.