At sunset on Sunday (13 September) millions of Jews will be observing Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and the first of the High Holy Days. The two-day celebration, which begins on the first day of Tishrei is marked with a number of traditions, but food is one of the main customs that has lasted to the modern day.
During these special days, many families will gather for meals the time to celebrate the time of rebirth and a feast of traditional sweet, salty and savory foods in the Jewish calendar. The foods will have named in Aramaic or Hebrew to evoke blessings for the months ahead. Before partaking of the meal, Jews recites Hamotzi, the blessing over bread.
Incorporating apples and honey in Rosh Hashanah meals is said to ensure a sweet new year. According to Jewish mythology, the apple represents the Shekhinah – the feminine aspect of God – and eating the combination is said to encourage Shekhinah to judge kindly. Eating apples and honey is also a late medieval Ashkenazi tradition that is now universally accepted.
Another food with a symbolic meaning is the head of a fish – to acknowledge the prayer "let us be the head and not the tail". It is just another example of fresh produce that is often abundant on the holiday table.
Jews also enjoy round loaves of Challah bread, which are the most recognisable food during Rosh Hashanah. Challah is a type of braided egg bread, it is normally served on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, and is often shaped into spirals to represent continuity.
Pomegranates also play an important part during Rosh Hashanah as the many seeds symbolize fruitfulness. Dates, black-eyed peas and spinach are also mentioned in the Talmud, a central text of Rabbinic Judaism.
Some Jews will also avoid eating nuts on the belief that the fact that the gematria – numerical value of the Hebrew letters – of "egoz" (meaning nut) is equivalent to that of "chet" (meaning sin).