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Page last updated at 18:43 GMT, Friday, 18 September 2009 19:43 UK
Feasts, festivals and holy days

This is a special time in the religious calendar, where the Jewish community in the region will be celebrating three important occasions including the New Year, known as Rosh Hashana.

It is a solemn time for personal reflection and repentance in the days leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which takes place on 28th September.

Celebrations for Rosh Hashana take place both in the Synagogue, where special services are held to commemorate the creation of the world, and at home with families eating a specially prepared meal.

The meal consists of sweet dishes including apples dipped in honey, honey cake and sweet carrot stew, known as tzimmes. The emphasis on sweetness is symbolic for a prosperous new year.

Rosh Hashana is also known as Judgement Day, when Jews pray for a happy and healthy new year and seek forgiveness for their sins. The belief is that God balances a person's good deeds against the bad and decides what the next year will be like for them.

One of the rituals at the synagogue is the blowing of the Shofar, a ram's horn used as a trumpet. The Shofar is blown 100 times throughout prayers in a special rhythm based on the themes of atonement and forgiveness.

Shofar being blown
The Shofar is blown 100 times during Rosh Hashana and once on Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur

The most sacred and solemn day in the Jewish religious calendar is Yom Kippur. It brings the Days of Repentance to a close, 10 days after Rosh Hashana.

It is believed that on Rosh Hashanah, God inscribes us in the Book of Life, judging the outcome of the year ahead. Then on Yom Kippur, God seals the Book and those who have repented thoroughly for their sins will be granted a happy New Year.

A traditional greeting on Yom Kippur is "Chatima Tova" meaning Good Signing (in the Book of Life).

Jews observe the day by a set of rules including fasting, prayers and wearing white clothing. The theme of white symbolises angels and angelic being.

FIVE RULES OBSERVED DURING YOM KIPPUR
Abstain from food and drink for 26 hours
Do not wear perfume
Do not wash
Do not have sex
Do not wear leather shoes

Time is also spent in the synagogue where five special services are held. The first service begins in the evening with the Kol Nidre prayer, a Jewish liturgy.

The fifth service, Neilah, brings the Day of Atonement to a close and God's judgement is finally sealed in the Book of Life. The liturgy ends with one final blow of the shofar.

Sukkot Festival

The Feast of the Tabernacles or the Sukkot ends the solemness of Yom Kippur. The word Sukkot means a hut.

Some Jewish families build open air structures to commemorate the time Jews spent in the desert on their way to the Promised Land.

A time for merriment and rejoicing, the week-long festival celebrates the way God took care of them in the harsh conditions. During the festival, a special blessing is given to four types of plant species.

This year the festival will start on Friday 2nd October.




SEE ALSO
The role of a Rabbi's wife
22 Sep 09 |  Religion & Ethics
Food, family and high holy days
22 Sep 09 |  Religion & Ethics
Jewish festival food
18 Sep 09 |  Religion & Ethics

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