Rosh Hashanah the beginning of the Jewish New Year


Ahead of Rosh Hashanah, Estelle shares what the festival means and how it is traditionally celebrated.

A graphic with blue and white fireworks with the text 'happy Rosh Hashanah'

Rosh Hashanah translates as the beginning of the year. It is a two-day celebration, this year it starts on 15 September in the evening and ends on 18 September in the evening. It is also the anniversary of the creation of the world, and the first interaction between God and mankind. From an agricultural point of view, it can be seen as the start of the cycle of sowing, growth and harvest.

There are several biblical names for this holiday. Yom Teruah – “day of blasting” which is sometimes translated as the “Feast of Trumpets” because of its close link with the shofar (the ram’s horn that is blown on this day). Another name is Yom HaZikron – The Day of Remembrance, and a further name is Yom HaDin – the Day of Judgement. These names allude to being reminded (by the shofar) to recall one’s sins and being called to account for them.

The ultimate aim is to be forgiven for them and earn a place in the “book of life”. Jews have a ten-day period to be “sealed” in the book of life, starting with two days of Rosh Hashanah. This is followed by a week of reflection, which is followed by Yom Kippur: collectively called the Aseret Yamay Teshuvah – Ten Days of Return (Penitence). A key phrase throughout these “Days of Awe” is “On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed”.

During Rosh Hashanah, it is traditional to eat apples dipped in honey, to symbolise our hopes for a “sweet” new year. We also eat a “new fruit” something we have not tasted since the last time it was in season. The bread “challah” is round to symbolise our wish for a year in which life and blessings continue without end.

Happy Rosh Hashanah to all those who are celebrating.


Rosh Hashanah the beginning of the Jewish New Year

time to read: 1 min