What Do You Say on Rosh Hashanah? Prayers, Blessings, Greetings and Kiddush for Jewish New Year

Rosh Hashanah is a time to spend with loved ones, including inviting those who don't observe the holiday to join friends and family who do for dinner.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is meant for celebration and self-reflection. A joyous holidays in the Jewish faith, it serves as the birthday of the universe, marking the day that God created Adam and Eve.

Jewish holidays follow a lunar calendar—unlike the Gregorian calendar, which is based on the solar cycle—so the exact date varies from year to year. In accordance with the Hebrew calendar, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on Tishrei 1 and 2. This year, that corresponds with September 30 and October 1.

All Jewish holidays start at sundown on the eve of the first day, meaning that Rosh Hashanah will begin Sunday at sunset and will conclude as night falls Tuesday.

Similarly to the New Year festivities that take place on December 31, Rosh Hashanah is a time to celebrate. However, Rosh Hashanah is also a time to reflect on the past year and to pray for a prosperous year to come. After Rosh Hashanah ends, the Ten Days of Repentance begin, which conclude with the Day of Atonement known as Yom Kippur.

On Rosh Hashanah, similarly to Passover, there are traditional foods that are eaten. However, the foods that are eaten are a bit less strict than the Passover seder plate. Traditionally, people will eat apples dipped in honey, although, some people also opt for chalah. The apple, paired with the honey, is symbolic of the sweet year that those who observe the holiday hope to have.

What Do You Say on Rosh Hashanah?

On Rosh Hashanah, it's customary to wish people a "Happy new year" or "L'Shana Tova."

what do you say rosh hashanah
Members of the Moroccan Jewish community celebrate the Jewish New Year together with their Moroccans compatriots in Casablanca on September 27, 2003. On Sunday evening, Rosh Hashanah will begin, which ushers in the 10 days of repentance. ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty

Rosh Hashanah Prayers and Blessings

On Rosh Hashanah, a number of blessings are said to mark the occasion. The blessing said over the candles is, "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to kindle the Yom Tov light." In Hebrew, it's pronounced, according to My Jewish Learning, "Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav vitzivanu l'hadlik ner shel yom tov."

Another prayer, known as the Shehechiyanu, is said to thank God for making it possible that family and friends reached the holiday season. "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this holiday season," the prayer reads in English. In Hebrew, it's pronounced, "Barukh ata adonai elohenu melekh ha'olam, shehecheyanu, v'kiyimanu, v'higiyanu la'z'man ha'zeh."

Before eating, a prayer is said over the bread, which is called the Hamotzi. It's read as, "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has brought forth bread from the earth." In Hebrew, participants pronounce it as, "Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz."

Rosh Hashanah Kiddush

When Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, the Jewish day of prayer from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, a prayer that is said over the wine, known as the Kiddush, it begins, "And evening came, then morning came: the sixth day. The heavens and the earth were completed and so were all their hosts. And God completed, by the seventh day, His work which He had done; and He abstained on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, for on it He abstained from all His work which God had created to do."

Then, participants say, "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine." On weeknights, only the last sentence of the blessing is said.