6 Ways To Celebrate Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of the Jewish New Year, and is one of the two most important holidays in the Hebrew calendar (the other is Yom Kippur). Literally meaning the "head of the year," Rosh Hashanah falls 10 days before Yom Kippur. This year, the holiday begins at sundown on Wednesday, September 28th.

You need not be Jewish to be inspired by the traditions celebrated and observed over the two-day holiday. Just as New Year's Eve is a time for people around the world to make resolutions to better their lives for the year ahead, Rosh Hashanah is a holiday that is both a time for celebrating and for serious reflection. People will look back over the past year, forgive, and make amends, all in an effort to ensure one starts off the new year on the right foot.

As Rosh Hashanah falls at a time of transition — it's the beginning of a new school year, the start of the harvest season, and near the advent of fall — the holiday can be an occasion for those who aren't Jewish to give back and start fresh before heading into the busy fall and holiday season. Inspired by the customs surrounding Rosh Hashanah, we've shared some new traditions anyone can start to celebrate the holiday below.


1. Give Back

Use the Rosh Hashanah holiday as an opportunity to help spread a hopeful outlook to others in your community by giving back. Donate those old clothes and extra household items you've had lying around to charity, or help to serve a meal at a local soup kitchen. Even young children can help give back.  Rally neighborhood kids together and begin a door-to-door call for non-perishables and pet food to donate to the local food pantry, or contact your local ASPCA and sign up to help walk dogs awaiting adoption.


2. Make (and Sound) a Shofar

The shofar is a musical instrument made from a ram's horn that is commonly blown 100 times on each of the two days of the holiday. In ancient times, the sounding of the horn was thought to scare away bad spirits; today it's thought to awaken one's soul and helps to facilitate the process of repenting. It also resembles a cornucopia, a symbol of plenty around the world that is especially prevalent during the harvest. Use toilet paper tubes to make your own shofar at home with this simple how-to, then let the kids parade around the house making noise.


3. Celebrate with Sweet Foods

Who wouldn't love to add a spoonful of honey to everything they ate for a couple of days? On Rosh Hashanah, Jews enjoy many sweet foods, like apples dipped in honey, with the hope that it will bring lots of sweetness and prosperity for the coming year. It's also a lot more enjoyable than eating the head of an animal (another tradition honoring the holiday as the "head" of the new year).




4. Make Your Own Challah

Challah is a rich, eggy, braided bread that is traditionally served by Jews at the beginning of Sabbath and holiday meals. On Rosh Hashanah, raisins are often added to the dough for sweetness (and sometimes a brush of honey is used as a glaze) and the dough is formed into a round shape to symbolize the circular nature of a year. Thanks to its tender crumb and a slightly-sweet flavor, challah is well-loved by many. Try making your own bread with this recipe, and then use the leftovers (if there are any) to make French toast.

Watch the video below for tips on braiding.



5. Throw Bread

But we don't mean at people!

On Rosh Hashanah, many Jews will practice Tashlich, a symbolic casting off of wrongdoings by throwing pieces of bread or pebbles into a lake or pond. For those with young children at home, use this tradition as an opportunity to talk through arguments or other things that might be bothering them. Go to a nearby lake or pond and throw in a piece of bread (maybe to the ducks, if they're allowed to be fed) or pebble for every frustration expressed.


6. Enjoy "New" Fruit

On Rosh Hashanah, it's customary to eat a new fruit — not one that you've never had before, but one that has recently come into season, like apples or pomegranates. For example, use pomegranate seeds to dress up a green or fruit salad, add pomegranate juice to sparkling water for a fizzy soda kids will like, or try this fruity mulled wine. Then add a colorful element to your dinner table by setting out a bowl of red pomegranates in the center.