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How Is Rosh Hashanah Celebrated?

How Is Rosh Hashanah Celebrated?

An Overview of Rosh Hashanah's Traditions and Customs


Click here for a listing of Rosh Hashanah's corresponding secular dates for the upcoming years.

What Is It?

The two-day festival of Rosh Hashanah is observed on the 1st and 2nd days of Tishrei.

In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means, literally, "Head of the Year," and as its name indicates, it is the beginning of the Jewish year. The anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, it is the birthday of mankind, highlighting the special relationship between G‑d and humanity.

The primary theme of the day is our acceptance of G‑d as our KingThe primary theme of the day is our acceptance of G‑d as our King. The Kabbalists teach that the renewal of G‑d's desire for the world, and thus the continued existence of the universe, is dependent upon this. We accept G‑d as our King, and G‑d is aroused, once again, with the desire to continue creating the world for one more year.

Synagogue and Shofar

Much of the day is spent in synagogue. G‑d not only desires to have a world with people, G‑d wants an intimate relationship with each one of us. In addition to the collective aspects of Rosh Hashanah worship, each man and woman personally asks G‑d to accept the coronation, thus creating the bond of "We are Your people and You are our King."

The central observance of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar, the ram's horn. The shofar is sounded on both days of Rosh Hashanah (unless the first day of the holiday falls on Shabbat, in which case we only sound the shofar on the second day). The sounding of the shofar represents, among other things, the trumpet blast of a people's coronation of their king. The cry of the shofar is also a call to repentance; for Rosh Hashanah is also the anniversary of man's first sin and his repentance thereof, and serves as the first of the "Ten Days of Repentance" which will culminate in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Altogether, we listen to 100 shofar blasts over the course of the Rosh Hashanah service. Click here for more about the shofar.

Apple and Honey

We eat a piece of apple dipped in honey to symbolize our desire for a sweet year, as well as many other special foods. All have special significance and symbolize sweetness, blessings, and abundance. Click here for more about the special Rosh Hashanah foods.

Rosh Hashanah Wishes

We bless one another with the words Leshanah tovah tikateiv veteichateim, "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year."


We leave our old shortcomings behind us, thus starting the new year with a clean slateWe go to a lake, river or to the sea and recite the Tashlich prayers, where we symbolically cast our sins into the water, in evocation of the verse, "And You shall cast their sins into the depths of the sea." We leave our old shortcomings behind us, thus starting the new year with a clean slate. Click here for more about Tashlich.


And as with every major Jewish holiday, women and girls light candles on each evening of Rosh Hashanah and recite the appropriate blessings. (Click here for candle-lighting times for your location.) After the prayers each night and morning, we recite Kiddush on wine, make a blessing over the challah, and enjoy a festive repast.

Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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1000 characters remaining Staff via October 1, 2016

To Anonymous If Rosh Hashanah doesn't coincide with Shabbat, yes you may carry items that are needed such as keys, prayer books, tissues etc. Shana tova. Reply

Anonymous via September 30, 2016

Are you allowed to carry on Rosh Hashana? Reply

Anonymous September 29, 2016

why a round challah on Rosh Hhashanah Reply

B via September 20, 2015

To Lorraine No, we cannot use an intercom on Rosh Hashanah. Reply

Lorraine September 15, 2015

Using a door intercom Is using a door intercom permitted? Reply Staff via September 13, 2015

To Anonymous Driving is not permitted on Rosh Hashanah. Shana tova! Reply

Anonymous PA September 13, 2015

Is driving permitted on Rosh Hashanah? Reply

Anonymous Half Moon Bay September 24, 2014

I have a Jewish Happy New Year card. Is it appropriate to send it for Rosh Hashanah? Reply

Anonymous Spring valley September 24, 2014

Yahrzeit candles are lit when yizkor is said. So, the last day of Passover, 2nd shevous, and Shmini Atzeret. We also say yizkor on Yom Kipper.

K'siva V'chasime Tova. Reply

Mrs. Chana Benjaminson via September 24, 2014

To Rebecca A yahrtzeit candle is lit and yizkor is said on Yom Kippur, Shemini Atzeret, the last day of Passover and on the second day of Shavuot. The candle should be lit on the eve of the holiday, usually before candle lighting. You may want to light a yahrtzeit candle before Rosh hashanah to have a flame available from which to light the holiday candles. Shana tova! Reply

Rebecca Samuels September 24, 2014

When do we light yahrzeit candles? Reply Staff via September 15, 2014

To Skip Best would be to send a card or the apple and honey before the actual day of Rosh Hashanah. I'm sure your gift will be appreciated! Reply

Skip September 14, 2014

I am not Jewish and was wondering is it appropriate to send a card on this day to Jewish friends? How about with a small package containing an apple and some honey...?

Thanks ahead! Reply

Lynn brad pitt September 12, 2013

Why is "o" replaced with a hyphen? Reply

Anonymous September 8, 2013

re: comments on converts yes, those who recite the Amidah(prayer) everyday will notice that there is a blessing for the " righteous proselytes" in the siddur .
A convert is accepted or turned by a Beit Din (in orthodoxy) after completing studies & practicing for 1 ~ 5 years, not just one person announcing "you're Jewish now" after a weekend course! Reply

Richard A. Florida September 4, 2013

Rosh Hashana There are so many beautiful messages here from people of many paths to The Holy One. May all people on Earth know peace and fellowship at this holy season. La Shana Tovah... Reply

Menachem Posner Montreal September 4, 2013

To Eric The widespread custom is not to wear the kittle on Rosh Hashanah. However, in some congregations, the rabbi, chazzan, shofar blower, and other leaders do wear a kittle on Rosh Hashanah. Reply

Cindy Sarasota, FL September 3, 2013

Converting to judaism According to the Jewish faith anyone who has converted to Judaism is as much a Jew as one born as a Jew and should be thought of as so. To reject a converted Jew or consider them "less Jewish" is definitely not taught in any information I have studied on the subject. Reply

Eric Burke, VA September 3, 2013

Wearing white on Rosh HaShanah I know that we traditionally wear white (Kittel) in Shul on Yom Kippur. What is the Minhag and Halacha surrounding wearing white on Rosh Hashanah? (if there is one). If there is a Talmudic reference please cite it. Reply

Albert Johnson USA., TN. September 2, 2013

A Wild Olive Branch Grafted into The Jewish Tree Of Life Leshanah tovah tikateiv veteichateim, 'May you be inscribed & sealed for a good year' to all my dear jewish friends and supporters of the State of Israel. I celebrate with you. For the Light of Eternal Life was first lit in you. Shalom. Reply

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