Friday, September 25, 2009

shanah tova

we celebrated rosh hashana last friday, the jewish new year. literally it translates "head of the year", and therefore it's custom to eat a head of some sort, as a part of the seder (the evening meal). my mother in law serves a fish head, but it's actually only her husband who will take a bite. the rest of us pass on that opportunity.

shabbath and holidays in israel are still counted as in the old days. meaning, that the holiday begins by sunset and ends the following evening, traditionally it would end when you could see three stars on the sky, but today the exact hours of shabbath and holidays are posted in the newspapers.

so, a holiday would then traditionally begin with a visit to the synagogue as the sun sets, just like when the shabbat is greeted on a friday evening. if you observe shabbath you obviously don't cook, so the women prepare the meal before sunset, the shabbath candles are burning and the table set. she can then either join her husband in the synagoge or take a moment to relax until the men arrive back from the prayer.

don't get me wrong here. we don't do this, as we live a secular life. my parents in law are traditional and observes shabbath in a modified version, and will follow the traditional course of a holiday seder (what to eat and when to eat it fdring the holiday meal, together with the reading of the holiday scriptures). i am just giving you the traditional way of shabbath and the seder. among secular jews, some will do parts of the seder, some will serve some of the traditional dishes, but many will just have a family dinner, based on the rosh hashana and holiday meal traditions.

as you may know, a traditional shabbath dinner will always include the breaking of the bread. often they will begin with a short prayer, over the wine, then there will be some light dishes, followed by the breaking of the bread and the prayer that goes with it. the host will then take little pieces of the bread, dip them in salt and pass out to everyone participating in the shabbath dinner. that's the beginning of the real meal.

on rosh hashana the salt is replaced with sugar. the sugar is what makes rosh hashana seder meals special. the sweet ingredients are like a wish for a sweet new year.

besides the sugar instead of salt, the seder prayer involves eating certain sweet dishes, while reading aloud. like dates, sweet pumpkin and pomme granate. and most importantly, apples dipped in honey. this specific snack is everywhere around rosh hashana, it's the snack for this holiday, closely followed by the pomme granates.


sunday evening yom kippur, the holiday of fast and atonement, will begin at sunset. for now we're headed at the beach, where we'll be camping with friends. it means, barbecuing, swimming, sand and salt in the hair, and lots of sun and wind. we'll be tired and ready for a day of complete yom kippur silence and quiet when we return home.

shanah tova! wishing you a sweet and healthy new year!


  1. Those pictures are great: bright and joyful!
    I wish you a very happy day at the beach.
    Shabbath Shalom.

  2. shanna tova! a sweet new year to you as well.

  3. Happy, healthy, colorfull years for you and your lovedones!

  4. So few people in the world know about pomegranate juice and it is, as you know, truly delicious.

  5. happy new year to you too! thank you for sharing these traditions, so beautiful.

  6. shanna tova! i'm not religious but i love traditions, all what you wrote here is so beautiful! thanks for sharing:-)
    never saw a pomegranate tree, only on old pictures, i imagine they're beautiful!?

  7. wow! how can you remember all that? I'm sure I'd screw something up if I had so many rules to follow...or traditions...although the sweet food wishing for a sweet new year is an awesome tradition to have...especially for kids!!

    I love dates and sweet you ever have sweet potato instead of pumpkin?

    Shanna Tova? does that mean: God Bless!

    Just guessing :)

  8. A happy sweet new year!
    Although I knew some of it, it was great to learn more about the jewish traditions.
    Enjoy the weekend, Jeannette

  9. shanah tova!

    rosh hashan is one of those Jewish holidays a name of which I can never remember. but on the other hand there are so many!

    apples with honey sound interesing. I must try that...

  10. I think I would pass on the head of anything, but give me apples and honey any day. Have a great weekend.

  11. A fish head is a a delicacy, but personally I don't like to have my food stare at me. I'd much rather have the fishmonger stare at me when I ask him to chop fish and tail for me:)
    About the pomegranates: is there a trick to seed them quickly that you know of? I'd heard that soaking them in water would do it, but it didn't seem to work for me ...

  12. Such lovely rituals. Happy New Year and thanks for another moving post.

  13. l'shana tova, trinsch! beautiful post...