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Round Challah included in Rosh Hashanah Gift Baskets and Celebrations

What is the Meaning Behind the Symbolic Foods of Rosh Hashanah?

As you look forward to the celebration of Rosh Hashanah you may be thinking of family, friends, and loved ones. The celebrations had at this time of year can create memories that last a lifetime. One thing common to almost all celebrations is customary food. Rosh Hashanah includes the largest variety of symbolic foods relative to any other holiday. Below are some examples of some of the most common ones found at the Rosh Hashanah table.  

Round Challah

Throughout the year this braided sabbath bread is typically in the traditional shape of a long loaf. For Rosh Hashanah, however, challah is presented as a round loaf often incorporating raisins or dried fruit. This tradition goes back to the Ashkenazi Jews located in the Central and Eastern Europe area, who ate a round challah. The round circular shape is symbolic of the ongoing cycles of the year while the fruit represents the hopes and wishes for a sweet new year. To further sweeten things, the bread is often torn and then dipped in honey, not salt as it is the remainder of the year.


Pomegranate seeds symbolize fertility, and many people opt to have them on their Rosh Hashanah tables. Fertility speaks to the wish to have our worthiness grow over the upcoming year much like the seeds found in the fruit.

Apples and Honey

Apples and honey is one of the most common and traditional Rosh Hashanah foods. The act of using apples to dip into honey is so common that many Jewish families store honey pots (often in the shape of apples) that are only brought out at Rosh Hashanah. Apples dipped into a bowl or pot of honey in the celebration of Rosh Hashanah goes back to 12th century France. At that time, Rosh Hashanah celebrants consumed red apples, which represented everything to be bright and new. It is common for the act of dipping the apple into the honey to be accompanied with a prayer saying “May it be Your will to renew us for a good and sweet new year.”


Persian Jews, who follow a seder (order) in the consumption of their Rosh Hashanah dinners will follow up the honey dipping with tearing a piece of leek, which symbolizes tearing your enemy apart. They will then throw the leek over the shoulder.


Common as a Sabbath dish amongst European Jews, Tzimmes is a thick, sweet stew of a combination of various root vegetables. The sweetness of this stew of vegetables is common for Rosh Hashanah because of how sweet it is.

Lamb Head or Sheep Head

Some Jewish communities include the tradition of displaying either the head of a lamb or the head of a sheep on the Rosh Hashanah table. This act symbolizes the desire to be at the “head and not the tail”, which is a reference to Deuteronomy. The head of the lamb is typically baked and consumed during a meal. In other Jewish communities a fish with the head still on is used, serving the same symbolic purpose.

Honey Cake

To further add to the sweetness for the upcoming new year, honey cake, also referred to as lekach, is a staple for many Rosh Hashanah tables. To observe kosher tradition and practices, it is typically prepared without the use of any dairy products to allow it to be consumed during a meal containing meat.

Rosh Hashanah Gift Baskets

Many of the traditional foods consumed at Rosh Hashanah can be found in our selection of Rosh Hashanah gift baskets. If you’re looking for the perfect Rosh Hashanah gift, browse our selection of kosher gift baskets today.

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