The foods that make up the ritual seder meal for Passover — the Jewish holiday that begins this year on Monday evening — are pretty standard, and the family dinners on the first night of the holiday usually showcase traditions that are passed down over generations.
That means the seder table can be a great source of history if you know where to look.
Joan Nathan, a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, has seen many variations of these traditions throughout the years. In Los Angeles, she tells TIME, she once witnessed a Persian custom in which, at the point in the seder when the story of the Egyptians as task masters is told, participants slap each other with scallions. And at an Iraqi-Jewish seder in Maryland she saw a custom in which the children dress up as itinerants — complete with bindles full of clothes — to imitate people on the way from Egypt to Israel.