Rosh Hashana is known for its symbolic foods. From round challot to apples and honey, much of the food we eat on Rosh Hashana is meaningful. But did you know that there are so many different symbolic foods on Rosh Hashana? Below, we outline some of the standard foods that are eaten, along with an explanation of why they are significant to our New Year, to help us concretize in our minds the meaning behind these foods.

Many people enjoy a fresh carrot salad, or perhaps even take the time to whip up a batch of carrot muffins.

1) Carrots: May our merits increase

2) Leeks or Cabbage: May our enemies be decimated

3) Beets: May our adversaries be removed

I will admit, we go the easy route for beets and buy the beets in a jar in our supermarket. Everyone loves them!

4) Dates: May our enemies be consumed

We eat dried dates for this symbolic food in our home.

5) Gourd: May the decree of our sentence be torn asunder and may our merits be proclaimed before You.

Gourd includes some favorites like pumpkin or squash, so you may want to try some muffins or soup. 

6) Pomegranate: May our merits increase as the seeds of the pomegranate

We like to eat them on their own; always a family favorite!

7) Fish: May we be fruitful and multiply like fish

We make gefilte fish with large carrots for this symbolic food. But we also serve fake crab sticks for those in our house who prefer those and fish candies since we have one non-fish eater as well.

8) Head of Fish or Lamb: May we be as the head and not as the tail

The very idea of having the head of an animal on my table is not palatable to me. But the kids love our adaptation: I buy gummy fish at the candy store and then cut off the heads and serve only the heads of the gummy fish.

9) Since many of the symbolic foods are plays on words (based on what they are called in Hebrew or Yiddish) there is a modern American version that we adopted for fun a few years back. The ingredients are simple – lettuce, raisins and celery. Please let us have a raise in salary!  I cut them up and add a bit of a vinaigrette dressing.


Wishing all of you and your families a Shana Tova U’Metuka – a Good and Sweet New Year,

Shayna Levine-Hefetz

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