Rosh Hashanah 2017: Everything you need to know about Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur

Jewish people across the world are marking New Year or Rosh Hashanah – the start of the holiest time in the Hebrew calendar.

It’s a time for family, friends and celebration – and also for personal reflection.

In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah literally translates to “the head of the year.”

The celebration lasts over two days and is signalled by the new moon. This means the date it falls on changes every year.

Rosh Hashanah 2017 begins at sundown on Wednesday September 20. This year marks the start of the 5778 on the Jewish calendar.

As night falls candles are lit in the home. The festival is marked by meals with family and friends and services at the synagogue.

Food is big part of the celebrations. Special customs are observed such as eating apples dipped in honey to symbolise a sweet new year. Honey cake and round challah bread is also eaten.

In the synagogue the shofar – the horn of a ram – is sounded as part of services which include readings from the Torah which is the Jewish religious text.

The first day marks the start of 10 days of repentance, where Jewish people reflect and repent for their sins of the previous year.

The tenth day is Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the year in Judaism.

Here’s everything you need to know about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

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Lawrence Purcell

What is Rosh Hashanah?

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the High Holy Days. It starts on the first day of the Jewish month of Tishrei. Tishrei is the seventh month in the Jewish calendar.

Rosh Hashanah occurs 163 days after the first day of Passover.

It’s one of the holiest days in the faith and a massive occasion for families and communities to come together.

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Lawrence Purcell

What is actually being celebrated?

Mentioned in the Torah – in the book of Leviticus – as Yom Teruah, it’s translated as the Feast of Trumpets, or the Day of the Sounding of the Shofar.

It’s a traditional anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve and a “day of judgement”.

Jews believe God balances a person’s good deeds over the past 12 months against their wrongdoings, so the day marks a time of reflection and penitence. Worshippers ask God for forgiveness of their sins over the past year.

It’s also the start of the agricultural cycle of sowing, growth, and harvest.

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By Deror_avi/Wikimedia Commons

How does the Jewish community mark Rosh Hashanah?

Customs include blowing the shofar – a hollowed-out ram’s horn – and eating symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey to evoke a “sweet new year”.

Dates and pomegranates may also appear on dining tables.

For communities, feasts and synagogue services will be held.

Challah bread is also eaten in a round loaf to symbolise a circle of life and the new year.

Throughout the High Holidays, Jews recite Selichot , special prayers that ask forgiveness.

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What greeting do I give on Rosh Hashanah?

Common on Rosh Hashanah is the salutation “shanah tovah u’metukah”. It’s Hebrew for “a good and sweet new year”.

What is Yom Kippur?

On the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tishrei comes Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur means the ‘Day of Atonement’ and is the holiest day of the year.

To mark the ‘Sabbath of Sabbaths’, Jewish people fast for 25 hours and pray devoutly for most of the day, with five different sessions – Maariv, Shacharit, Musaf, Minchah and Neilah.