Rosh Hashanah is a two-day observance celebrating the first and second days of the Jewish New Year. Monday 30 September 2019 signifies the first day of the year 5780 on the Jewish calendar. Monday also marks the beginning of the High Holy Days, a 10-day period during which Jewish people reflect on their actions in the previous year and repent for any wrongdoings. The last day of High Holy Days is called Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
This year, Rosh Hashanah celebrations began on Sunday evening, also called Erev Rosh Hashanah (Rosh Hashanah Eve), and will end on Tuesday evening.
For Erev Rosh Hashanah, it’s typical for Jewish people to go to shul (in the UK) or temple (in the US), both meaning synagogue. After this service, there’s a big festive dinner. Alternatively, some Jewish people hold a Rosh Hashanah dinner in their own homes. Traditionally, an Ashkenazi (European) Jewish Rosh Hashanah dinner would involve gefilte fish, sweet brisket, honey mustard chicken, a sweet potato pie, pomegranate apple salad, apple crumble, and honey-glazed carrots.
As if Erev Rosh Hashanah service wasn’t enough, additionally, there are morning services for the first two days of the year. For both these services, a shofar (a ram’s horn) is blown to signal the start of the new year.
Jewish services tend to end with kiddush, a blessing over wine or grape juice, and then braided bread called challah is salted, split and eaten. After Rosh Hashanah services, however, round challah dipped in honey is eaten instead. This is because it’s customary to eat sweet food during Rosh Hashanah, to welcome a sweet and fruitful new year. Other sweet foods are also consumed, such as apple slices dipped in honey, dates, and pomegranates. Bitter food such as horseradish and nuts are avoided in the hopes of preventing a bitter new year.
So if you see a Jewish person today or tomorrow, wish them a Happy New Year! If you don’t know how to, you can say to them; ‘shanah tovah (a good year)’ or ‘shanah tovah umetukah (a good and sweet year).’
Image: Lilach Daniel via Flickr