One of the most fascinating customs of the Passover Seder is the eating of the Afikomen which is also known as the “hidden Matzah”. For a child whose part of the Seder, this is the most exciting part of the evening. Everybody in the house is looking forward to this evening.
Afikomen Origin and Background
The word “Afikomen” is a Hebrew word which means “that which comes after” is a larger piece of Matzah which was broken down into two and set aside or hidden to be eaten as a dessert after the entire meal.
During the Passover Seder, the Seder leader holds three pieces of Matzah where the middle matzah will be broken into two pieces where the smaller piece will return to the table while the larger piece which is the Afikomen, is wrapped in a table napkin and kept and hidden for children to find. Afikomen in a Greek word means “dessert” which is technically not sweet but because it is the last item to be eaten at Seder. In all Jewish families, they have a custom of hiding this afikomen somewhere in the house and have the children find it. The one who finds it can ask for a present or a gift that they want.
Significance of the Afikomen
According to the Mishnah, the Paschal lamb (Passver lamb) should be the last food eaten in Seder, but after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the Afikomen has become the emblematic reminder of the Passover lamb.
This custom of hiding the Afikomen is thought to be a device used to keep the children in the house bright-eyed and bushy-tailed while doing the custom and they have to say if they found the missing Matzah nearly at the end of the seder. Keeping them wide-awake will cause them not to forget this custom so that it will eventually become a part of their lives as they grow and mature.
However, some Jews believe that they’re all like children who seek and find for something that is unknown yet to be revealed soon. The Afikomen once found and redeemed, resembles a story of redemption of the Jews.