Why Jews Eat Round Challah For the New Year

A sweet and symbolic tradition for the Jewish New Year

As the Jewish New Year approaches, the month of Elul is a time of reflection on our past year and the beginning of teshuvah, or repentance. We do this every year — prepare ourselves to reflect, repent, ask forgiveness. There’s something wonderfully therapeutic about it. Those rabbis really knew what they were doing.

And like the Passover seder when there are specific foods to enjoy as a meaningful part of the holiday, Rosh Hashanah is no different: We dip apples in honey for a sweet new year, we say a blessing over a new fruit, we might put out the head of a fish on our table for prosperity and abundance, and we enjoy sweet, round challah. There is even a tradition of having a Rosh Hashanah seder, where symbolic foods are blessed and enjoyed to welcome the year.

But back to that round challah— what is the significance?

There are many explanations: the circular nature of our year and seasons, or how a round challah resembles a crown, thus crowning god the king on the New Year. And there is also another explanation, which that it is a way to distinguish the already sacred challah as something even more special and distinctive for the New Year. How is this night different from all others? Sweetness and fluidity and hope for the coming year.

Now that you know why we enjoy round challah, it’s probably time to start baking. Watch below for some easy shaping techniques to make a round challah. Or you can also watch here for a full recap on braiding challah for Shabbat and holidays. Wanna try and get super fancy? Check out these tricks from New York City’s famous Breads Bakery.

And here are some of our favorite recipes to try this holiday.

Honey Whole Wheat Challah

Gingersnap Apple Challah

Vegan Maple Fig and Rosemary Challah from Alma 

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