The High Holy Days — What Are They?
The High Holy Days—or, High Holidays as they are also called—consist of two autumn holidays called Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In Hebrew, “Rosh Hashanah” means “Head of the Year” and it’s the Jewish New Year. Ten days later comes Yom Kippur, which is Hebrew for the “Day of Atonement.” It is the most solemn day of the Jewish year, and many adults fast as a spiritual practice for the duration of the day. Because of differences between the Hebrew and Western calendars, the High Holy Days move around a bit on the Western calendar, but they always fall sometime in September or October.
These holidays, and the stretch of days in between them, are sometimes referred to as the “Days of Awe” or the “Days of Repentance.” They’re serious but also joyful, and they are the one time of year when the largest number of people in the Jewish community attend synagogue services. The main reason these are considered the most important holidays on the Jewish calendar is because they are about self-examination, forgiveness, the repairing of broken relationships and giving ourselves a fresh new start.
For many, this is the only time of the year we go to synagogue. For others, it’s a chance to reflect, take stock of the past year and make amends. It’s a holiday season that is rich in symbols, like the shofar or apples dipped in honey.
People of all faiths, including people who identify as non-religious, are completely welcome to attend and participate in these holidays.
High Holiday Dates for 2019
Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Sunday, September 29th. Some people celebrate until sundown on Monday, September 30th, while others celebrate two days, ending at sundown on Tuesday, October 1st.
Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Tuesday, October 8th, and ends at sundown on Wednesday, October 9th.