Why is Gefilte Fish Eaten During Passover?

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As Passover begins today, many Jewish families will include gefilte fish in their Seder meals. This traditional dish, whose name literally means “stuffed fish” in Yiddish, is especially popular during Jewish festivals, including Passover.

Composition of Gefilte Fish
Gefilte fish is typically made from a minced mixture of white fish such as carp, pike, or whitefish. The fish is ground, mixed with fillers like breadcrumbs, eggs, and onions for flavor and binding, then formed into patties or balls. These are then poached and served chilled, often garnished with carrot, parsley, and accompanied by horseradish.

Cultural and Practical Significance
The preparation of gefilte fish was originally motivated by practicality and religious observance. Jewish laws prohibiting work on the Sabbath and holy days include a ban on separating fish bones while eating. Gefilte fish, being boneless, is prepared in advance and serves as an ideal dish that adheres to these dietary laws. Economically, it also allowed families to extend costly ingredients into more substantial meals, symbolizing fertility and abundance during the celebration of Passover, a festival marking renewal and freedom.