What Is Rosh Hashanah?

rosh hashanah jewish new year hebrew calendar 1

Apples are common but aren’t the only honey-dipped fruit at Rosh Hashanah. These nectarines look delish too! | Source: Shutterstock

Here’s an early Happy Rosh Hashanah to our Jewish readers! The rest of you are probably like, “Wait, what isthat?” Of course we’re gonna let you in on the fun too!

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. Unlike the secular New Year, which as you know (we hope!) is January 1, the Hebrew calendar–which is lunar (moon) based, unlike the regular one–starts its new cycle in September each year. This year, Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset on September 16, 2012 and runs through nightfall September 18.

Fair enough, but what does it mean? Rosh Hashanah’s literal translation is actually “head of the year,” and it takes place during the first days of the Hebrew month Tishrei. Jewish people believe that God created the world during Tishrei, so Rosh Hashanah, occurring on the first days of the Tishrei, is pretty much seen within the religion as the whole world’s birthday. Pretty cool, right?

While the secular New Year is about partying (okay, and resolutions), Rosh Hashanah is still fun, but a bit more serious. In the Jewish religion, God decides who will live and die in the coming year during the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which falls 10 days later. Heavy stuff! During those 10 days, Jews reflect on the previous year and try to repent for any wrongs they may have committed in hopes of finding themselves on God’s “good list.” Often Rosh Hashanah is a time for Jewish people to make up with anyone they’ve crossed, issue apologies, and make peace on any vendettas.

You know how the secular New Year has the New Year’s baby? Rosh Hashanah’s got its own symbols. While none of them cry or look cute in a diaper, they’re still pretty cool. One of them is called a shofar, and it’s pretty much a horn, but a small one with more meaning than a regular one. Depending on how religious someone is and how they celebrate, it’s often blown a lot during Rosh Hashanah–think 100 times over two days–to remind everyone to reflect.

Other Rosh Hashanah symbols? Sweet stuff. Apples dipped in honey (yum!) symbolize a sweet New Year, and pomegranates are a biggie too, because legend has it that they have 613 seeds, which are seen as representative of the number of good deeds for the coming year. That’s a lot of kindness! Some Jewish people also have a Taslich ceremony in which bread is thrown into a body of running water to symbolize casting off one’s sins, though it’s not quite as common now as it used to be back in the day.

L’Shanah Tovah!

Are you celebrating Rosh Hashanah this year? Do you have any special traditions for Rosh Hashanah? Tell us in the comments!

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