Rosh Hashanah 2021: Happy Jewish New Year! When is it, greetings and what does Shana Tova mean?

Rosh Hashanah 2021: Happy Jewish New Year! When is it, greetings and what does Shana Tova mean?
Rosh Hashanah 2021: Happy Jewish New Year! When is it, greetings and what does Shana Tova mean?
A shofar is blown at the start of Rosh Hashana (Picture: tovfla)

Rosh Hashanah begins today, a two-day celebration which usually takes place in September or October that marks the first day of the Jewish new year.

The event begins at sundown, customarily with the blowing of the shofar, the ram’s horn, which is meant to wake up people from their slumber.

Here is the lowdown on Rosh Hashanah and some greetings you can use to celebrate the day.

What is Rosh Hashanah?

Rosh Hashanah – literally meaning the head of the year in Hebrew – marks the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days and the first day of the Jewish new year.

Usually, a prayer service is held in a synagogue where an instrument known as a shofar – made from a ram’s horn – is blown.

While Covid restrictions have been lifted since last year’s Rosh Hashanah, allowing services to take place, some synagogues may still have limits on numbers, as well as rules on social distancing and face coverings – while in some cases, you may even have to provide proof of a negative test or of double vaccination in order to attend a service.

If you are planning to visit a synagogue over the festive period, it’s advisable to check what their entry requirements are beforehand.

An Orthodox Jew wears a protective mask
Rosh Hashana will look a lot different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic (Picture: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)

Another key part of Rosh Hashanah is tzedakah, or giving back to those in need.

Throughout Rosh Hashanah, people will carry out good deeds in the hope that God will mark their names in the Book of Life, which will give them a happy and fruitful year ahead.

Apples, pomegranate, honey, and challah bread are traditionally eaten during the celebrations, in the hope that eating sweet foods will be reflected in the sweetness of the year ahead.

However there is also a more serious side to the festival, which is regarded as one of the most important in the Jewish calendar, with much of the prayer around repenting for and reflecting upon one’s actions in the previous year.

The New Year kicks off a period called the 10 Days Of Repentance, which ends with the Yom Kippur fast – and is a time when people repent for their sins, in order to begin the New Year with a clean slate.

When is Rosh Hashanah?

Rosh Hashanah is a two day event that begins at sundown tonight (September 6) and continues through nightfall on September 8.

The first two days of the Jewish new year are called Tishrei 1 and 2 – Tishrei being the first month in the Hebrew calendar.

An apple, pomegranate, honey, and a yamaka.
Pomegranates, apples, honey, and challah bread is traditionally eaten (Picture: Cavan images)

What does Shana Tova mean and what are some other greetings?

Shana Tova is the shortened greeting for Rosh Hashanah.

It’s cut down from the traditional greeting of ‘L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem’, which means ‘may you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.’

The most common greeting to hear during this occasion is L’shanah tovah, which means ‘for a good year.’

You can also say ‘Shanah Tovah um’tukah’, which means ‘may you have a good and sweet new year.’

If you’re afraid of butchering the pronunciation, a simple ‘happy new year’ would still be greatly appreciated by your Jewish friends.


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Author: Caroline Westbrook and Evelyn Richards