10 Traditions for the Hebrew New Year

The Hebrew New Year is an Israeli national holiday for the entire country. Citizens have two days off to celebrate with their families and friends. Since Israel is full of Jews from almost every country, culture, and denomination, there are dozens of different Rosh Hashana traditions and practices. We gathered some of our favorite.

A Jewish man wearing a tallit walking through the Old City in Jerusalem
Walking to synagogue in the Old City in Jerusalem

01 Honey

Dipping food in honey is one of the most common customs for Jews on Rosh Hashana. It’s customary for Ashkenazim to bake sweet desserts and sides using honey like honey cake (Ashkenazim), Tayglach (a South African dessert of crispy dough boiled in honey), and tzimmes (honey cooked carrots)!


02 Shofar

All throughout the month of Elul, the month leading up to Rosh Hashana, Jews in synagogue blow the shofar- a ram’s horn turned musical instrument meant to “wake people up” before the start of the New Year.


03 Head of a Fish/Lamb

One of the stranger traditions of Rosh Hashana, many Jewish families celebrate the beginning of the new year with a blessing to “Be like the head, and not the tail”. Ashkenazi tables feature a fish head, while Sephardi and middle-eastern families will often have a lamb’s head.


* Need a vegan option? No worries. Lots of people skip the animal head and sub-in a candy fish head instead.

04 New Fruit

It’s a new year, and with a new year comes new fruit! This tradition means Israeli supermarkets are stocking all kinds of interesting, exotic fruit for you to choose from. The idea is to have a fruit you haven’t had all year and encourages you to try something new this year!

05 Punny Foods

Lots of Israelis have the tradition of including food puns at their family meals over Rosh Hashana. Using the Hebrew names of the vegetable or fruit from the Gemara to bless each other for abundant, healthy, fruitful years. Rubia for example is small beans, and the word comes from the Hebrew word Rav or many. They are eaten and used to bless each other with many merits (among other things). Don’t have any Rubia on you? Make your own pun from anything on the table!

06 New Clothing

New Year’s is a great excuse to recycle or donate a few lesser-worn pieces in your closet, and spring for that gorgeous piece you’ve been wanting to buy at the mall or from your local designer. Shops all over Israel will be celebrating the new year with new products and great sales! Don’t miss out!


07 Charity

The Jewish year isn’t only a time for celebration, but also a time for reflection for Jews, who spend two days praying in the synagogue, repenting their sins and reflecting on the previous year and the year ahead. It’s common for Jews and Israelis to use this opportunity to give charity at the beginning of the year, and there are plenty of incredible organizations to donate to!

08 Circular, Sweet Challah

It’s customary for Jewish homes to have round challah at the beginning of their Rosh Hashana meal, signifying the continuum of the year, and continued blessing for the next year. It’s also customary to add a little extra sweetness, making this a meaningful AND delicious tradition!


09 New Year’s Resolutions

Every New Year is a time to look toward the future and think about changes to make for the coming year. Lots of Israelis have the tradition of making New Years’ resolutions during this time.

10 It’s Time to Party!

For non-religious Israelis, the Hebrew New Year is a lot like the Secular New Year, with drinking, parties, and celebrations happening all over major cities like Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva, Herzliya, and Haifa. So grab a Tubi 60 and toast to another year around the sun (and moon!)