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.
People of all faiths, including people who identify as non-religious, are completely welcome to attend and participate in these holidays.
You can download the Guide to the High Holidays for Interfaith Families as a .pdf file. (Also available in Word format)