Rosh Hashanah 2012 Starts on September 16 (Jewish New Year 2012)
Rosh Hashanah 2012 starts at sundown on September 16.
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, and literally translates to "Head of the Year". Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) falls this year on September 16th and 17th, and is the first of the High Holy Days, followed by Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), which takes place seven days later. (Get your Rosh Hashanah dinner recipes ready, if you haven't already) So say Shana Tova (Happy New Year in Hebrew) to your Jewish friends. Say it to your non-Jewish friends, too.
Note that in the Jewish calander, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day, so observing Jews will celebrate Rosh HaShanah on the sunset of Sunday, the 16th of September.
These days, and the days in between, are the Ten Days of Repentance, after which that year's chapter in the Book of Life is closed forever. And so will begin the the month of Tishrei in the Hebrew year 5770. Yeah, Judaism's pretty old.
A key symbol of Rosh Hashanah is the Shofar, a ram's horn that is blown at key points in the Rosh Hashana synagogue service. (Yes, keen movie fans will note that Harold and Kumar's Jewish friends use a Shofar as a bong in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle; this is not standard Jewish practice, however)
Rosh Hashanah is treated as a day of rest, with the same observances of Shabbat (Sabbath). Though North American schools don't get Rosh Hashanah as a day off, observant families sometimes pull their kids out of school, but then the kids have to go to synagogue, so it's not really a day off.
If you're a Jewish mom, you've probably already started preparing dinner, so here's a honey cake recipe, courtesy of the nice folks at the Seattle P-I. Also, if you're looking for a brisket recipe, About.com's got your back.
Putting your spiritual house in order
While it does have its festive side, Rosh Hashanah is not one big party, as the New Year's celebrations on Dec. 31 tend to be. Rosh Hashanah is a time for personal introspection and prayer.
Jews may also visit graves. It is thought that the prayers or good wishes of the dead can help the living. By wishing each other well and sending cards, people let friends know what happened in the past year and what plans lie ahead. Christmas cards and get-togethers fill a similar role for Christians.
Rosh Hashanah is part of a process of spiritual growth. The Hebrew month preceding it, Elul, is a time for charity, tzedakah. Rosh Hashanah falls on the first and second days of the seventh month, Tishri.