Apples and honey may be the symbolic stars of Rosh Hashanah, but for some Jewish families they are just the beginning. The custom of holding a Rosh Hashanah seder, where a series of symbolic foods are eaten before the meal, is becoming an increasingly common practice in Sephardic and Mizrahi families where the tradition originated, and even in some Ashkenazic households.
Each of the chosen foods — generally a pomegranate, date, string bean, beet, pumpkin, leek, and fish head— symbolize a wish or blessing for prosperity and health in the coming year. The food’s significance is most often based on a pun of that food’s name (find out more here.) During the Rosh Hashanah meal, each food is held up, blessed, and eaten as if to personally ingest or take in those good wishes.
Rosh Hashanah’s symbolic foods can make an appearance on the holiday table, regardless of whether one decides to incorporate a full Rosh Hashanah seder into their celebration. For a creative twist on the traditional seder, make dishes inspired by each food (like the ones linked below) and serve them throughout the evening to infuse the entire meal with symbolic meaning as well as delicious flavors.
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Pronounced: meez-RAH-khee, Origin: Hebrew for Eastern, used to describe Jews of Middle Eastern descent, such as Jews from Iraq and Syria.
Pronounced: roshe hah-SHAH-nah, also roshe ha-shah-NAH, Origin: Hebrew, the Jewish new year.
Pronounced: SAY-der, Origin: Hebrew, literally “order”; usually used to describe the ceremonial meal and telling of the Passover story on the first two nights of Passover. (In Israel, Jews have a seder only on the first night of Passover.)
Pronounced: seh-FAR-dik, Origin: Hebrew, describing Jews descending from the Jews of Spain.