Explore how different Jewish communities across the globe welcome Rosh Hashanah with their own unique customs.
Following the Midrashic tradition of honouring the number seven, Moroccan families prepare a meal using seven different vegetables during Rosh Hashanah Eve as the festival falls in the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. While well-used recipes and dishes vary between each household, the national seven vegetable tagine is the most common meal shared together to represent good luck for the new year.
Although not entirely common, it’s a custom among some Chassidim to purchase and sharpen a new knife for each member of the household. Expressing wishes for a new year full of spiritual prosperity, the symbolic act also honours Chatach, meaning to cut in the name of the angel of livelihood.
It’s typical to get a fresh haircut on the eve of Rosh Hashanah to rejuvenate yourself and symbolically get rid of any sins from the previous year. Care, however, should be taken to receive a haircut before noon, allowing plenty of time for Torah studies and personal reflection. When the haircut is finished, the barbers are blessed with the Arabic phrase “ne’eman,” meaning “bliss”.
Any leftover Matzah bread saved from Passover is expected to be consumed during a Turkish Rosh Hashanah holiday. Evoking a sense of friendship and a wish for those who share their meals to be also present at the new year feast, the tradition also further demonstrates the Passover wish to be saved from evil following the Exodus in Egypt.
Olives are a key part of the celebrations during Rosh Hashanah on the island of Djerba, off the Tunisian coast. After collecting as many fallen olives from the vines as they can, the children then pickle the small fruits in salt and parade them through the island’s streets. The adults then congratulate the children by reciting the traditional yehi ratzon blessing to wish that their merits multiply like olive saplings in the new year.
Taking the Rosh Hashanah translation of “head of the year” quite literally, many Polish communities prepare a meal with chopped fish heads to demonstrate a desire to be heads rather than tails in the new year. Consuming fish is also a symbolic representation of a family’s wish for prosperity and abundance together in the spirit of fish swimming in large schools.
Ancient Baladi custom prompts some families of Yemen to get up extra early to blow 30 blasts of the shofar before dawn in addition to the blows during standard morning service. This is in line with the Midrashic proverb: “pre-empt evil before it precedes you.”