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The Symbolism Behind Rosh Hashanah Food

The Jewish New Year, otherwise known as Rosh Hashanah, began last night. Although it is a time for introspection and soul-searching, it is also a happy day. Once the holiday prayer service is completed, a kiddush is said and a festive meal is eaten. Many foods are symbolic, such as apples dipped into honey, which represent a sweet new year. Spoiler alert: many foods symbolize wishes for a sweet year to come:

Round Challah
The round shape symbolizes a perfect year to come. Sometimes raisins or honey are added to make it extrasweet.

Apples and Honey
Dip the apples in honey to symbolize a sweet year to come.

Head of Fish or Gefilte ("filled") Fish
Fish is an ancient symbol of fertility and abundance. The head of fish symbolizes the head of the New Year. The head also symbolizes hope that the Jewish people will lead other nations through their righteous acts.

Head of Lamb, Sweet Chicken
Head of lamb symbolizes the hope that the Jewish people will lead other nations through their righteousness. The glazed chicken symbolizes the wish for a sweet year.

Tzimmes
Tzimmes is an eastern European recipe for honey-baked carrots. The Yiddish word "meren" means carrots and to increase. Carrots symbolize our hope that we increase our good deeds in the coming year. Some tzimmes recipes add prunes, sweet potatoes, or even meat to the sweet carrots.

Spinach
Spinach symbolizes a green year with plenty of produce.

Rice
Rice symbolizes abundance.

Honey Cake or Teiglach (crunchy dough boiled in honey)
Like with apples and honey, honey cake symbolizes wishes for a sweet year to come.

Source: Corbis Images; Front Page Image Source: Shutterstock

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Join The Conversation
sunnylove-17 sunnylove-17 8 years
It is always interesting to learn about other cultures, it helps to open the mind and the heart, thanks.
beingtazim beingtazim 8 years
thanks for this. i had no idea about most of it.
Community-Manager Community-Manager 8 years
Thanks Yum for the tribute to R.H., now I am off to services soon for 2 hours - oy!
lexichloe lexichloe 8 years
Very interesting, you just taught me alot!
julieulie julieulie 8 years
I have never heard of the tradition of having spinach for Rosh Hashanah... you learn something new every day. Neither my nor my fiance's family does that.
shmoo15 shmoo15 8 years
Yay Yum! La Shana Tova (Happy New Year)
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