Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, begins at sundown Sept. 10. "Rosh Hashana" means "head of the year" in Hebrew. It's a celebration of both the creation of the world and the beginning of a new year: 5760 on the Jewish calendar.

Families traditionally gather for a special dinner. Apples and honey are served to express hopes for a sweet year ahead.

For Rosh Hashana, challah -- braided egg bread -- is made in the shape of a circle, to symbolize the way the year has come full circle, from the old to the new. Honey or raisins may be added to make the bread sweet.

Sometimes, the bread is topped with a crown, which symbolizes the power of God. Or the bread may be decorated with a ladder or a bird, which symbolizes the hope that the family's prayers will go right to heaven. Some families have a separate bread baked in the shape of an angel's wing. This symbolizes goodness.

Rosh Hashana begins the High Holidays, 10 days of reflection, of thinking about how to be a better person in the next year. The 10 days end with Yom Kippur, the most solemn holiday of the Jewish year. It's a day when people ask forgiveness for things they did wrong in the past year. Adults fast -- they don't eat or drink -- and pray in synagogues. Children younger than age 13 don't have to fast, but they are expected to think about how they can be better in the new year.

If you'd like to sample some Rosh Hashana sweetness, challah can be bought at Jewish bakeries and some supermarkets. Your family can cut up some apples and challah, then dip them in honey.

Pub Date: 09/06/99

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