Tonight Jews will begin celebrating one of their most important religious holidays, Rosh Hashanah. It remembers the creation of the world. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means the "head of the year." It is also called the Feast of the Trumpets. The blowing of a ram's horn, a shofar, proclaims Rosh Hashanah, and summons Jews to religious services.
Jews used the ram's horn as a trumpet in Biblical times to announce the new moon, holidays, and war. Today, a variety of horns are used, including curved antelope horns.
Putting your spiritual house in order
While it does have its festive side, Rosh Hashanah is not one big party, as the New Year's celebrations on Dec. 31 tend to be. Rosh Hashanah is a time for personal introspection and prayer.
Jews may also visit graves. It is thought that the prayers or good wishes of the dead can help the living. By wishing each other well and sending cards, people let friends know what happened in the past year and what plans lie ahead.
Food for thought
Traditional Jewish foods accompany Rosh Hashanah. Typically, a blessing will be said over two loaves of bread, known as challah. The round shape symbolizes a crown, a reminder of the kingship of God. Challah also stands for the circle of life, and the hope that our lives endure without end.
Challah is sometimes baked with a ladder on top in recognition that only God decides who climbs up or down the ladder of life.
Apples dipped in honey are another Rosh Hashanah tradition. It symbolizes the hope for a "sweet year" ahead. Honey is spread on challah. Tzimmes, a mixture made from carrots, cinnamon, yams, prunes, and honey, is also traditional.
Sephardic Jews—those of Mediterranean or Middle Eastern origin—serve a whole fish as a wish for prosperity, fertility, and good luck for the coming year.
Greengates Builders Merchants Accrington, Lancashire wish all Jews a happy Rosh Hashanah.