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As the holiday season in the U.S arrives this year, I am more curious than ever before about how people around the globe and next door celebrate their own traditions and festivities. I am intrigued by the customs and beliefs of those who share this great big world with me.

The 5 W’s of Rosh Hashanah

What is Rosh Hashanah?

Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of the new year according to the Jewish calendar. Literally translated, it means “beginning of the year”, and is observed as a time of renewal, with focus on personal growth and reconnection with religious values and community.

When does it begin and end?

The Jewish calendar follows a lunar cycle, as opposed to the Gregorian calendar which is aligned with the sun.

Traditionally beginning in either September or October, the date of the start of Rosh Hashanah in 2018 is September 9. Rosh Hashanah officially begins at sundown on this day and ends on Tuesday at sundown.

Falling in the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, Tishrei, the Jewish new year is a time of celebration and joy. A traditional dinner is often served and may include apples and honey for dessert. The latter symbolizes hope of sweetness in the coming year.

Where is the Jewish new year celebrated?

Rosh Hashanah is celebrated around the world by followers of Judaism. As it is in many religions, there are various factions of Judaism which believe in the same basic religious principals but practice those beliefs in their own traditions and customs.

While all sects of Judaism have their own unique interpretation of many aspects of Jewish traditions, most Rosh Hashanah celebrations follow similar observances. Synagogues perform formal and traditional services, though Rosh Hashanah is also celebrated at home and in daily interactions during its observance.

Who celebrates Rosh Hashanah?

Chances are, you can find someone celebrating Rosh Hashanah just about everywhere around the world. A typical observance will include prayers, fellowship, and blessings for the coming year to Jews and Gentiles alike. The particular traditions of celebration vary by location, sect, and other factors that are both doctrinal and secular.

Why should we learn what others celebrate?

Learning about a different culture than our own in any capacity is a great way to understand the people who share this planet with ourselves. By taking the time to learn the customs and traditions of others, we open our minds to infinite possibilities.

When we take the time to discover what traditions, customs, and beliefs bring us together, we are in turn sowing seeds of hope and sweetness for future generations.

How Gentiles can participate

If you aren’t Jewish, you may wonder if it’s ok to join in the new year festivities. The answer is yes, you can. Do a little research beforehand, so you are prepared with the knowledge of basic dos and don’ts of the holiday. Be respectful of the aspects that are non-secular and expect to be excluded from them.