Greetings for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur greetings


Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are two of the biggest holidays (high holidays) in the Jewish faith when Jews send special holiday greetings to friends and loved ones. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, is traditionally a day for wishing people well in the year ahead. Yom Kippur greetings, by contrast, are more solemn, as befits this day of atonement. Each day has its own traditional sayings.

Rosh Hashanah

Traditions: Rosh Hashanah is a two-day celebration that marks the beginning of the Jewish new year, according to the lunisolar Hebrew calendar. It occupies the first two days of the month Tishrei. The name Rosh Hashanah means "head of the year" in Hebrew. The first day of the holiday is the most important because it is a day to be spent in prayer and contemplation as well as a day to celebrate with family.

Prayers for forgiveness called selichot are said during synagogue services, and the shofar (ram's horn) is blown to symbolically awaken the faithful. After services, some Jews also take part in a tashlich ceremony by gathering at a body of water like a pond or stream to cast away their sins by throwing bread crumbs in and repeating silent prayers.

Food also plays a significant role in Rosh Hashanah. Challah, a staple at the Sabbath supper, is served. Unlike the usual oblong bread loaf, the Rosh Hashanah challah is round, symbolizing the circle of life. Sweets are thought to symbolize wishes for a sweet new year, and for this reason, Jews will often dip apples in honey on Rosh Hashanah. 

Greetings: There are several ways to wish your Jewish friends a happy new year. A few of the more common greetings include:

  • L'Shana Tova: Wishing your Jewish friends happy new year is as easy as saying L'Shana Tova, which means "For a good year" in Hebrew.
  • Shanah Tovah Umetukah: If you want to express the same sentiment but more elaborately, this phrase means "A good and sweet year."
  • L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu V'taihatem: A Rosh Hashanah greeting used by the devout, this one means, "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year."

Yom Kippur

Traditions: Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement and is considered the holiest and most solemn day of the Jewish calendar. According to Jewish tradition, it is the day when God judges people's actions and seals their fate for the upcoming year in the Book of Life or Book of Death. Jews traditionally observe Yom Kippur by fasting for 25 hours and attending special synagogue services. Some Jewish faithful also choose to wear white, representing the purification that the holiday represents.

The holiday begins with a special synagogue service on the first night when congregants recite Kol Nidre ("all vows" in Hebrew), a special liturgical chant offered only on Yom Kippur. It is believed that by reciting these vows, Jews will be forgiven for pledges left unfulfilled during the past year.

Services often continue overnight into the second day of observance. Readings from the Torah are given, loved ones who died in the previous year are remembered, and at the very end of the religious observances, the shofar is blown once to signal the end of the holiday.

Greetings: There are several ways to wish your Jewish friends well on Yom Kippur. Some of the more common greetings include:

  • G'mar Hatimah Tovah: This is the traditional Yom Kippur greeting. It means, "May you be sealed for a good year [in the Book of Life]."
  • Tzom Kal: Yom Kippur is a fast day, so this Hebrew greeting is appropriate for wishing your Jewish friends an easy fast.
  • L'Shana Tovah: This Rosh Hashanah greeting can also be used for Yom Kippur because they are both part of Judaism's 10 Days of Awe, which runs from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur.

General Holidays

There's one more Hebrew greeting that you can use for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, or any Jewish holiday. That's ​Chag Samayach, which means "happy holidays." In Yiddish, the equivalent is Gut Yontiff.

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Your Citation
Pelaia, Ariela. "Greetings for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur." Learn Religions, Feb. 8, 2021, Pelaia, Ariela. (2021, February 8). Greetings for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Retrieved from Pelaia, Ariela. "Greetings for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur." Learn Religions. (accessed March 27, 2023).

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