The Passover seder plate contains 5 (or 6) items:
1. Charoset: Typically, a mixture of apples, nuts, and wine. It is intended to remind us of the bricks and mortar which the Israelites made when they were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. Its taste is sweet, reminding us of the freedom of our ancestors and the freedom we enjoy today.
2. Egg: The egg serves as a symbol of life. Passover falls during springtime, when there is a rebirth in nature. Similarly, Passover commemorates the Jewish people’s transition from slavery to liberation. The egg also reminds us of the wholeness of the earth, and the cyclical nature of time.
3. Karpas (green vegetable): Parsley is often used, but lettuce or celery are also options. Karpas is a symbol of rebirth and new life. It reminds us of all things that grow, and encourages us to think about the potential we all have to grow. It is traditional to dip the karpas into salt water, to remind us of the tears of our ancestors as they struggled to be freed from slavery.
4. Maror (bitter herb): Horseradish is often used. The maror symbolizes the bitterness of slavery and the suffering of Jewish ancestors throughout the ages.
5. Shankbone (zeroah, in Hebrew): Our ancestors were shepherds, relying on sheep for their survival. There was a springtime feast to celebrate the birth of lambs, and the shankbone on our seder plates symbolizes that feast. It is also a symbol of the paschal sacrifices.
Some seder plates have an additional bitter herb, bringing the total to six items.