The answer I learned growing up was that "we don't want to embarrass the bread because we are first making kiddush" or some variation thereof. I later learned that is a zecher for the ma'n which fell with a coating on top and bottom. Where does that first answer come from? And, if it is a legitimate source, what does it really mean (ie bread doesn't have feelings!)?
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The Tur (OC 271) here brings three reasons why we cover the challah.
Some practical differences emerge from this discussion.