Rosh Hashanah

Last updated August 31, 2021

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and literally translates as ‘head of the year.’ It begins a solemn ten-day period of contemplation and self-examination, called the Days of Awe, that ends with the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah is also known as the Day of Shofar Blowing, the Day of Remembrance, and the Day of Judgement. Rosh Hashanah is a two-day celebration.

Rosh Hashanah is the first of the Jewish High Holy Days, and the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve. Rosh Hashanah is a two-day new year celebration beginning on the first day of Tishrei - the first month of the Jewish lunar year. According to the Hebrew calendar, days begin at sundown. Hence, Rosh Hashanah begins the evening before Rosh Hashanah day.

The central observance of Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the shofar, an ancient musical instrument made from animal horn. The shofar is blown during synagogue services and prayers as a wake up call to work on mending one’s ways as a new year begins.

Many Jewish families gather for a special meal where blessings are recited over different symbolic dishes including apples, honey, dates, and pomegranates. Pumpkins and squash are also commonly eaten among Sephardic families. These foods are intended to symbolize the sweetness and prosperity that the new year brings. Some traditions include meals with the heads of fish or lamb to symbolize the desire to be “heads, not tails” or, in other words, to be leaders in the new year and not followers.

These High Holy Days are amongst the most religious days of the year for Jews, and are a time for reflection and atonement. Many families attend synagogue, praying for peace among nations, among peoples, and within themselves in the coming year.