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What is the afikomen and why is it hidden?

There are traditionally three pieces of matzah at the middle of the Seder table; the middle one is called the afikomen and it’s usually the part of Passover that kids most look forward to.

Relatively early in the Seder, the afikomen is broken in two pieces; the bigger piece is then wrapped in a napkin and hidden somewhere in the house. Some Jews see this as symbolic of the ultimate redemption from suffering, which comes at the end of the Seder; some see it as a reference to the Passover sacrifice that used to be offered at the ancient temple in Jerusalem; and some see it as a reminder that the poor must always set something aside for the next meal, or a reminder that there’s always more to discover in life than what we know.

For any kids at the table, though, it’s a game: after the meal, they’re sent running to hunt for the hidden afikomen. It’s sort of like hide-and-seek, but with religious significance. The kids bring it back to the table and everyone shares a bite — sometimes after giving the child who found it a small reward, like a piece of candy.

Here are some recommendations for where to hide or look for the afikomen:

  • Taped under a dining-room chair
  • On the bookshelf (WARNING: can get crumbly)
  • Back in the box of matzah
  • Under the tablecloth
  • Behind a picture on the wall
  • In the mailbox

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