The Tradition of Honey & Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year)
For millions of Jewish people around the globe, the 18th September – 20th September 2020 brings around the joyful time of Rosh Hashanah or Jewish New Year. Translated into English as “Head of the Year”, Rosh Hashanah is a time of year used for celebrating the anniversary of the world and is celebrated every year between September and October due to Jewish months being based on the lunar year, rather than the months on the Gregorian calendar. It all kicks off in the evening the day before, when people often have a dinner together followed by a visit to the synagogue the next day to pray and hear the Shofar (a traditional musical instrument). For Jewish people living in Israel this is usually as far as the celebrations go however for others living across the globe, the festivities carry on for a second day with more celebrations and of course more food. Obviously this year, things will be a bit different with family meals and meet ups happening over Zoom and places of worship still not being open in lots of countries all over the globe.
The History of Honey At Rosh Hashanah
We often associate different festive periods with the food and drink that goes along with them. Just like at Christmas there is usually Turkey, or at Eid there is Biryani, for Jewish people globally, honey is eaten during the time of Rosh Hashanah. Although the use of honey at this time of year is meant to signify the ‘sweetness of life’ in the year to come, its true origin is still disputed by historians. According to the author & historian Jeffery M. Cohen, the reason honey is used (and not another alternatively sweet food) is it’s association with ‘manna’, which is described in the Torah as being like “honey wafers” that the Israelites were given by God as they wandered in the desert for 40 years. Its purpose was to remind Jews that any material benefits that they come across is “solely dependent upon God’s grace & favour”. Additionally, he argues that due to honey coming from bees, it represents duality in both the fear of their sting but also the sweet product they provide. This is represented in how Jewish people view God as both a stern but merciful creator.
Whatever the true reason and origin is of honey at this time of year in the Jewish culture, it is clearly deep-rooted and highly important. honey is at least as old as the first scrolls that were written as it was mentioned in Babylonian and Sumerian ancient texts which go back over 4,000 years!
Different Ways of Eating Honey At Rosh Hashanah
Although honey is an incredibly versatile thing, there are a few things that people accompany it with at this time of year for some delicious and traditional snacks. One of the most popular ways of eating it is to dip either slices of apple of pieces of Challah (a traditional Jewish festive bread) into the sticky stuff for a delicious treat. Additionally, honey is also given as gifts and used in more savoury dishes such as Tzimmes (a carrot-based dish that is sweetened with honey and served as a savoury addition).
Another staple at this time of year in Jewish households is the traditional Honey cake. Although honey has been used in cooking as early as the ancient Romans & Egyptians who mashed honey into yeast/barley, the honey cake that is eaten globally today was created around the 12th century in Italy. This dense and sweet honey cake made its way up to central Europe and was adapted into the Jewish cuisine by Ashkenazi Jews. It was first used in this religion when a new student would learn Torah for the first time, they would receive some as a treat. Over the years, this recipe has been adapted and is still a staple of Rosh Hashanah tables around the world, with loads of interesting new ways to make it become popular. Vegan, gluten-free and chocolate-covered variations are becoming the norm as diets and eating requirements change.
We hope you have enjoyed reading our blog on Rosh Hashanah as well as learnt some new things about why honey is so important during this time! Have a browse at our full collection of delicious and organic Nordic Honey over at our site which is perfect for this time of year.