Happy New Year — or “sha-NA to-VAH” — which in Hebrew, roughly means “good year”!
This year, we celebrate the Jewish New Year from sundown on September 18 — through sundown on September 20. Rosh Hashanah, which translates from Hebrew to the “head of the year,” is a two-day celebration that begins on the first day of Tishrei — the Jewish calendar’s first month. Thus, the day moves around on Western calendars — but typically falls in late September. Rosh Hashanah marks the start of the year 5780 on the Jewish calendar.
During Rosh Hashanah, Jews make take one or two days off from work — attending High Holy Day Services, gathering with family and friends, and preparing special meals. Symbolic foods include apples, honey, challah (egg bread), fish, couscous, and dates.
The High Holy Days conclude 10 days later with the Jewish calendar’s most sacred day Yom Kippur.
When is Rosh Hashanah 2020?
Rosh Hashanah falls on the evening of September 29, 2019 — and lasts until sundown on October 1.
Rosh Hashanah timeline
- 70 CE
An extended holiday
Following the Second Temple of Jerusalem's destruction, Rosh Hashanah changed from a one-day event to a two-day event—due to the fact that it became too difficult to determine the date of the new moon.
- 200 CE
A formal name
Although this holiday is considered to have been established sometime during the 6th century BCE, the phrase "Rosh Hashanah" didn't surface until the Mishna — the book of Jewish oral laws
- 15th Century
The word "challah"
Originally referred to as "berches," the term "challah," coined in Austria, appears.
- 15th Century
Casting away sins
Tashlikh is the tradition of throwing items into a body of water to symbolize ridding oneself of sins.
How to Observe Rosh Hashanah
Attend synagogue services
Because of its religious significance, Rosh Hashanah can be celebrated by attending synagogue, participating in prayers, and performing the Tashlikh — a ceremony in which bread is tossed into a body of water to symbolize the casting away of sins.
Eat (the traditional way)
Jews eat challah bread because it represents the continuity of life. They dip apples into honey to embody the hope for good health and sweetness throughout the New Year.
Greet others in Hebrew
Just as you wish a person a "Happy Birthday," or offer the sentiment of a "Happy Holidays," you can pay respect to those celebrating Rosh Hashanah by wishing them the following: “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year" in Hebrew. Specifically, to a man you would say: “Leshanah tovah tikatev vetichatem;" and to a woman, you would say: “Leshanah tovah tikatevee vetichatemee."
Why Rosh Hashanah is Important
A new beginning
As the first of the Jewish High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah is viewed as an opportunity to reset and establish the tone for the next year. During this time, people are reminded to think about their past years' experiences, practice penitence, settle any debts they may have accrued, and ask for forgiveness.
A father's sacrifice
On Rosh Hashanah, it is a custom for a shofar (ram's horn) to be blown like a trumpet. This gesture takes place in synagogue— where most of Rosh Hashanah is spent — and reminds people of the blessed event in which God allowed Abraham to sacrifice a ram instead of his son Isaac.
Rosh Hashanah's a time to begin self-reflection, repent for their past wrongdoings, practice righteousness, and set new goals.