Honey, Pomegranate, Apples and Shofar on Wooden Table. Rosh Hashana Holiday

Fall brings the back-to-school season, autumn colors on the trees, pumpkin spice everything, and, for those whose are Jewish, two very important holidays. While many children have the day off of school for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, they may not know why. If these holidays are unfamiliar to you or if you are unsure of how to explain them, we can help!

What is Rosh Hashana?

Rosh Hashana is the Jewish new year! The literal translation in Hebrew of Rosh Hashana is “the head of the year” or “first of the year.”

When is Rosh Hashana?

This year Rosh Hashana will begin at sundown (as most Jewish holidays do) on September 15 and end at sundown on September 17. The Jewish calendar follows a lunar schedule (cycles of the moon), so it doesn’t always correspond to the same day in the American calendar each year. For example, in 2024 Rosh Hashana will start on October 2 at sundown.

How do people celebrate Rosh Hashana?

People celebrate Rosh Hashana in many different ways!

Many people have dinner with family and friends on either the first or second night (or both!). Many celebrate with sweet foods, like apples and honey, to celebrate a sweet new year and a round challah (a type of bread) to celebrate the cycle of the year.

Families may attend synagogue (temple) and recite prayers, sing songs, and listen to the blowing of a special horn called a shofar.

Some celebrate with a custom known as tashlich, which translates to “casting off.” Those who celebrate throw pieces of bread or rocks into a body of water while reciting a prayer. During this ritual, people think of things they’ve done wrong in the past year and then “throw them away,” promising to improve in the coming year. It is like a literal casting off of your sins.

What is Yom Kippur?

Yom Kippur is the day of atonement. Jewish people will ask for forgiveness for their sins from God and from other people they may have wronged. This is the holiest day of the year in the Jewish religion.

When is Yom Kippur?

Yom Kippur begins 10 days after the start of Rosh Hashanah. In 2024 it will start at sundown on September 24 and end at sundown on September 25.

How do people celebrate Yom Kippur?

This day is a holiday, but it is celebrated with a lot of reflection and prayer. Traditional Jewish text says that at the end of Yom Kippur, God seals your fates for the coming year. Many attend services at temple and fast from all food and drinking, as it is believed that fasting is another way to reflect and repent for your sins. It is important to note that in traditional Jewish practice, children under 13 are not expected to fast, nor are pregnant women or anyone with a medical condition that fasting would intensify.

The holidays will typically end with a meal after sundown to break the fast with family and friends.

Where can I find resources to share with my children about Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur?

The following books and websites are great for learning more about the Jewish holidays!

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: With Honey, Prayers, and the Shofar

Rosh Hashanah Facts for Kids

Yom Kippur Facts for Kids


Allison Margolies
Allison grew up in Massachusetts and after living for over a decade in New York she moved back and now lives in Needham, MA with her husband, daughter (born in 2014) and dog Noodle. Allison has a Masters in Public Administration and currently works in the healthcare industry. Allison is passionate about the work she does especially with third party reproduction and helping others create their own families. Allison volunteers for the Boston Children's Hospital League where she serves on their board. When not working she can be found traveling, reading or eating too many french fries.