Common Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Greetings

How to Welcome Your Friends During the High Holidays

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur
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Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are two of the biggest holidays in the Jewish faith, when Jews send special holiday greetings to friends and loved ones. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, is traditionally a day for wishing people well in the year ahead. Yom Kippur greetings, by contrast, are more solemn, as befits this day of atonement. Each day has its own traditional sayings.

Rosh Hashanah Traditions

Rosh Hashanah is a two-day celebration that marks the beginning of the Jewish new year, according to the lunisolar Hebrew calendar.

Special prayers are said during synagogue services and the shofar (ram's horn) is blown to symbolically awaken the faithful. Sweets are thought to symbolize wishes for a sweet new year and it's for this reason that Jews will often dip apples in honey on Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah Greetings

There are several ways to wish your Jewish friends a happy new year. A few of the more common greetings include:

  • L'Shana Tova: Wishing your Jewish friends happy new year is as easy as saying "L'Shana Tova," which means "For a good year" in Hebrew.
  • Shanah Tovah Umetukah: If you want to express the same sentiment but more elaborately, this phrase means "A good and sweet year."
  • L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu V'taihatem: A Rosh Hashana greeting used by the devout, this one means "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year."

Yom Kippur Traditions

Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement and is considered the holiest and most solemn day on the Jewish calendar.

According to Jewish tradition, it is the day when God judges man's actions and seals his fate for the upcoming year in the Book of Life or Book of Death. Jews traditionally observe Yom Kippur by fasting for 25 hours and attending special synagogue services. 

Yom Kippur Greetings

There are several ways to wish your Jewish friends well on Yom Kippur.

Some of the more common greetings include:

  • G'mar Hatimah Tovah: This is the traditional Yom Kippur greeting. It means "May you be sealed for a good year (in the Book of Life)."
  • Tzom Kal: Yom Kippur is a fast day, so this Hebrew greeting is appropriate for wishing your Jewish friends an "easy fast."
  • L'Shana Tovah: This Rosh Hashanah greeting can also be used for Yom Kippur because they are both part of Judaism's 10 Days of Awe, which runs from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur.

General Holiday Greetings

There's one more Hebrew greeting that you can use for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur or any Jewish holiday. That's "Chag Samayach," which means "happy holidays." In Yiddish, the equivalent is "Gut Yuntiff."