Celebrated around the world, Rosh Hashanah means “Head of the Year” and is the celebration of the Jewish New Year. Typically, the holiday falls in September, and like all Jewish Holidays, it commences at nightfall the day before the actual holiday. After evening prayer, the celebrations begin, making it the perfect opportunity to gather friends and family in your home to reflect on the past and make a fresh start for the year to come.
If you’re hosting a sit-down meal or for a brunch buffet, cover the table or serving area with a white tablecloth, and garnish it with two round loaves of challah (egg bread) — which symbolize a perfect, cyclical year to come. At Rosh Hashanah, challahs are often covered with fabric printed with a bird or ladder motif or shaped into a bird or ladder, symbolizing that prayers will go up into heaven. Apples — the fruit of the season — can be placed on the table, or used as placeholders for guests or to identify dishes on a buffet. A bowl of honey symbolizes the hope for a sweet year, and can be used as a dip for challah and apple (to make it fun, create a fondue-like spread with pieces of bread and fruit on spears for dipping). On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, it’s tradition to eat a new fruit. Often, a pomegranate is served since it’s said the fruit contains 613 seeds, just as there are 613 mitzvot (commandments). To make a pretty candleholder, carve out the centre of the pomegranate and place a pillar candle inside. Or use exotic fruits your guests won’t likely have yet eaten, such as ground cherries, kumquats, papaya or passion fruit, as place settings around the table. Finally, place fresh flowers throughout your house to add colour, fragrance and a lovely, welcoming setting for your guests and the new year.
Food & Drink
Rosh Hashanah is filled with symbolic food that can be served alone or incorporated into other dishes. Here are some ideas to make your gathering memorable.
Instead of plain challah, sweet challahs using honey, apples or raisins can be made (which also makes a scrumptious base for French toast at brunch). While honey is used for dipping, it can also be incorporated into such dishes as rugelach, honey cake or other sweet desserts.
Fish and meat
Because “Rosh” means “head” of the year, it’s tradition to eat the head of a fish during a holiday meal, to symbolize fertility and abundance. Alternatively, you can serve Gelfite fish. Since there are many varieties of Gelfite, a unique way to incorporate the fish is to create a tasting menu on a buffet or as an appetizer course (slice Gelfite and serve on crackers) while people are still socializing before sitting down to dinner.
Sweet meat dishes are a popular item at Rosh Hashanah. Like honey, a sweet meat dish symbolizes the wish for a sweet year to come. Try sweet braised lamb with carrots and spinach, sweet honey mustard chicken, or chicken stuffed with raisins and apples or with an apricot glaze.
Tzimmes, an eastern European recipe for honey-baked carrots symbolizes the hope of increasing our good deeds in the coming year. Some tzimmes recipes add prunes, potatoes, sweet potatoes or meat. Because of their sweet nature, carrots are often served as a side dish, in salads or in carrot cake or muffins at brunch. Spinach symbolizes a green year with plenty of produce and can be used to make spinach patties or spinach salad. Rice signifies abundance and can be used as an accompaniment to many meat or fish dishes, in soup, or to stuff chicken, eggplants or grape leaves.
Grapes are the symbolic fruit for beverages, so offer a selection of Kosher wines, grape spritzers, punches and juice. Tea and coffee are served with dessert.