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Rosh Hashanah, or Rosh Hashana, is the Jewish New Year celebration. In the UK, it lasts for two days.
Rosh Hashanah in the Jewish Calendar
While the holiday lasts for one day in Israel, Jewish people in other countries, including the United Kingdom, usually observe it for two days.
Is Rosh Hashanah a Public Holiday?
Rosh Hashanah, while being an important occasion for Jewish people, is not a public holiday in the UK. However, Jewish organizations may be closed or have restricted opening hours.
Why Does the Year Begin in the 7th Month?
In the Gregorian calendar, a new year always begins on January 1, the first day of the first calendar month. However, Rosh Hashanah occurs at the beginning of Tishrei, the seventh month in the Jewish calendar.
The reason for this odd placement is that Rosh Hashanah, while being considered the beginning of the civil year, is not the only Jewish New Year celebration. For example, the religious year begins in Nisan, the first month of the Jewish calendar year.
In fact, Jewish time reckoning recognizes four different New Years, each having a different purpose:
- For religious purposes, the year starts on Nisan 1, which is commonly considered the first month of the calendar year.
- For civil purposes, the year starts on Tishrei 1, the seventh month.
- On the 15th day of Shevat, the 11th month, Jewish people celebrate Tu BiShvat, the “New Year for Trees.”
- The first day of Elul, the sixth month, marks the start of the year for the tithing of cattle.
How is Rosh Hashanah Celebrated in the UK?
Rosh Hashanah is considered an occasion when God reviews and judges a person's deeds in the past year. It is also a time to look ahead with hope and to pray for personal growth and for reflection.
Many Jewish families gather for a special meal to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, which commences at nightfall the day before Tishrei 1. Celebrations begin after the evening prayer where family and friends join in to reflect on the past and make a fresh start for the New Year.
In the morning, the shofar is blown in synagogues all around the UK, except if the celebration falls on a Shabbat. This ancient wind instrument, traditionally made of a ram's horn, is played like a trumpet and has great religious significance in Judaism. At least 100 shofar blasts are blown during the morning services.
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).
According to the rules associated with the holiday, it is not permitted to work on Rosh Hashanah, so Jewish people in the UK may take some time off work.
Rosh Hashanah Food
Challah bread, pomegranates and apples dipped in honey, and carrot stew (tzimmes) are popular dishes during Rosh Hashana.
Why Is Rosh Hashanah Celebrated?
According to the Hebrew Bible, Rosh Hashanah marks the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve. It covers two of the 10 High Holy Days that conclude with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Who Celebrates Rosh Hashanah in the UK?
The United Kingdom is estimated to have the 5th largest Jewish population in the world, with just under 300,000 people practicing the Jewish faith in the country. By far the largest British Jewish community is found in London, followed by those in Manchester and Leeds.
History of Jews in the UK
Jewish settlement in England can be traced as far back as the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Jewish community outnumbered the Spanish and Portuguese communities in England by the 18th century.
Many Jewish families in Eastern Europe moved to England to escape persecution and hardship between 1881 and 1914. About 150,000 Jewish people settled in England, with large numbers staying at London's East End during that time. England continued to receive Jewish immigrants escaping persecution around the time of World War II (1939-1945).
About Rosh Hashana in other countriesRead more about Rosh Hashana.
Rosh Hashana Observances
Note: Jewish holidays begin at sundown the day before the date specified for the holiday.
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