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Rosh Hashana in Australia

Many Jewish Australians celebrate Rosh Hashana (or Rosh Hashanah), which is also known as the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashana starts on the first day of Tishrei (or Tishri), which is the seventh month in the Jewish calendar, and may last for two days. It is sometimes called the Day of Remembrance or the Day of the Sounding of the Shofar.

Is Rosh Hashana a Public Holiday?

Although Rosh Hashana is not a public holiday, businesses and schools may be closed because it falls on the same date as Queen's Birthday in 2019, which is a public holiday in Western Australia.

A meal set on a table for Rosh Hashana.

Apples, pomegranates and honey are traditional foods eaten during Rosh Hashana.

©iStockphoto.com/Shmulitk

What Do People Do?

Rosh Hashana (Rosh Hashanah) is one of the holiest days of the year for many Jewish Australians. It is known as the New Year in the Jewish calendar. Some Jewish communities celebrate the event for two days, while others celebrate it for one day.

Rosh Hashana differs to the New Year in the Gregorian calendar (January 1) in that Rosh Hashana is a time when God reviews and judges a person's deeds in the past year, according to Jewish belief. It is also a time to look ahead with hope, and for personal growth and reflection. It is also customary for some people to visit deceased loved ones at cemeteries on the eve of the holiday.

Many Jewish families gather for special meals to celebrate Rosh Hashana, which commences at nightfall the day before the actual holiday. The celebrations begin after the evening prayer, when family and friends join in to reflect on the past and make a fresh start for the New Year. The challah bread, pomegranates, and apples dipped in honey, and carrot stew are popular dishes during Rosh Hashana. Some people eat fish during Rosh Hashana, while others abstain from fish.

Many Jewish Australians spend their time in the synagogue at some stage during Rosh Hashanah. The shofar is blown like a trumpet in the synagogue during this time of the year. Another activity that occurs during Rosh Hashana is performing the casting ritual (tashlikh), which involves reciting prayers near naturally flowing water and “throwing sins away” (for example, in the form of bread pieces).  Some people of Jewish faith may take the day off work or organize time off during this time of the year, to observe the belief that no work is permitted on Rosh Hashanah.

Public Life

Rosh Hashana is not a federal public holiday in Australia. However, many Jewish organizations may be closed or have restricted opening hours on Rosh Hashana.

Background

In the Jewish calendar, the year can begin on 2 different days. For religious purposes, it begins on the first day of Nisan. This makes the month of Tishrei the 7th month of the Jewish year. However, according to Jewish civil time reckoning, the year number changes on the first of Tishrei, the day of Rosh Hashana. So, since the months are usually numbered according to the religious calendar, the Jewish New Year technically begins on the 7th month of the year.

Rosh Hashana (or Rosh Hashanah) covers two of the 10 High Holy days that conclude with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Some sources say that the early Jewish calendar had four New Years, corresponding the seasons, with Rosh Hashana being one of the New Years.

Festivals to mark the beginning of a new year in the fall have been held since the earliest days of the Israelites. These took the form of prayers of thanks for the grain harvest. The custom of blowing trumpets on the 10th day of the month of Tishrei is first described in the vision of Ezekiel, a prophet who lived sometime around 600–500 BCE. This custom has continued into modern times.

Jewish Australians across the country celebrate Rosh Hashana each year. Judaism came to Australia with the first European settlers in the nation. The 2006 Australian census recorded nearly 89,000 people of Jewish faith in Australia, which was an increase of nearly six percent since the 2001 Australian census.

Symbols

The challah bread, which is eaten during Rosh Hashana, symbolizes the continuity of life. The apples that are dipped in honey symbolize sweetness and good health throughout the New Year. Some people also eat fish heads, which symbolize their desire to be on top, not the bottom, of life in the New Year. Pomegranates symbolize an abundance of goodness and happiness.

The shofar reminds people of Jewish faith that God allowed Abraham to sacrifice a ram instead of Abraham’s son, Isaac. The tashlikh is an act that symbolizes throwing one’s sins in the water, so people believe that they are freed from their sins.

About Rosh Hashana in other countries

Read more about Rosh Hashana.

Rosh Hashana Observances

Note: Jewish holidays begin at sundown the day before the date specified for the holiday.

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2015MonSep 14Rosh HashanaJewish holiday
2016MonOct 3Rosh HashanaJewish holiday
2017ThuSep 21Rosh HashanaJewish holiday
2018MonSep 10Rosh HashanaJewish holiday
2019MonSep 30Rosh HashanaJewish holiday
2020SatSep 19Rosh HashanaJewish holiday
2021TueSep 7Rosh HashanaJewish holiday
2022MonSep 26Rosh HashanaJewish holiday
2023SatSep 16Rosh HashanaJewish holiday
2024ThuOct 3Rosh HashanaJewish holiday
2025TueSep 23Rosh HashanaJewish holiday

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