Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year, begins Monday, September 6 at sundown and lasts till nightfall on Wednesday, September 8.
Many Jews attend services at synagogues or temples where they will pray for a sweet year full of blessings, and hear the blowing of the Shofar (a Ram's Horn). The holiday is marked with family and friends gathering for dinners each night and a Tashlich (Casting Off of Sins) Ceremony.
THE SPECIAL NEW YEAR GREETING
On Rosh Hashanah, and the days before and after, Jews wish each other a happy (and productive) new year: L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu, or simply Shanah Tovah! They mail cards, send e-cards, or call each other.
A fun project to do with the kids is to create personalized cards and send them to family and friends. Your family can also create a few New Year cards to deliver to a homeless shelter, senior center, or to an elderly neighbor. Explain to your child that you want to bring happiness and good year wishes to those who don’t have family nearby.
One of the key traditions of this holiday is to hear a Shofar blown. While the loud noise can be scary for some, other kids love it. The idea behind the Shofar being blown is that it is a wake-up call to start atoning for the sins/mistakes of the previous year because Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is near.
THE FOODS OF THE HOLIDAY
The meals provide a wonderful opportunity for families to get together, enjoy each other’s presence, reflect on the past year, and be optimistic for the upcoming year. Some fun foods to enjoy while celebrating this holiday are Challah (egg bread), apples dipped in honey, pomegranates, carrots, and honey cakes.
The round Challah is used instead of the usual braided challah/egg bread. The special round Challah reminds us of the roundness of the year and tells us that the coming year will be full and fruitful.
There is a special blessing and prayer said when eating the Apple (which should be sweet, not tart) and Honey. A fun game to play with younger kids is, “Let’s dip 1-2-3. Let’s dip again 1-2-3.” The purpose behind the dipping is to talk about the sweetness of the apple and of the honey, and the sweetness that we hope for in the new year.
There are a lot of seeds in a pomegranate, so this symbolizes abundance. Jews pray for plenty of health and happiness for the new year. Ask your children for specific good things they want for the upcoming year. (Don't forget, pomegranate juice can stain!)
Carrots in the Yiddish language, are called merren. In Yiddish, this word also means "more." We all want more of all the good things in life: more happiness, more health, and more success. Many people prepare the carrots in a sweet honey sauce called tzimmes.
THE CEREMONY OF TASHLICH
On the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Jews walk to a river or a place of water. It is best if there are fish in the water. At the river, they say a special prayer which reminds them about doing better in the next year.
For child-appropriate explanations, videos, stories, crafts, recipes, and more, visit the Chabad Rosh Hashanah Kids' Zone.