Celebrated sometime after the first week of September but not later than the first week of October in the Gregorian calendar, the High Holy Days consist of the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement. The latter is also called Yom Kippur and the former is also called Rosh Hashanah. Literally translated, Rosh Hashanah is a Hebrew term which means head of the year. The High Holy Days, on the other hand, is more properly known as the Yamim Noraim, which literally means the Days of Awe.
In the Hebrew calendar, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on their seventh month known as Tishrei. The Jewish New Year falls on the first two days of Tishrei, which is celebrated by sounding the shofar and feasting on symbolic foods. As a symbol of the holiday, the shofar is traditionally made from the horn of a ram that creates a distinct sound when air is blown. Among the symbolic foods that Jews feast on are apples dipped on honey.
According to Jewish traditions, Rosh Hashanah is a judgment day considered to be the most important because it involves all the inhabitants. The names of the righteous individuals are recorded in the book of life and are set to live guided by a good fate. The names of the wicked, on the other hand, are recorded in the book of death and are set to live a bad year.
While Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the High Holy Days, Yom Kippur is the culmination of the holidays. It is considered as the most solemn and thus the holiest day of the year. Also known as the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur is centralized on the theme of repentance. Jews observe this important day by fasting and prayer. For 25 hours, Jews spend most of the day in synagogue services.
Ten days, which represent the High Holy Days, elapse between the celebration of Rosh Hashanah and the observance of Yom Kippur. Hence, the latter is celebrated on the tenth day of Tishrei. This time of the year is when the fate inscribed in the book of life or the book of death is sealed. Ten days prior to this, Jews try to amend their behavior and ask for forgiveness for their wrongdoings so that a favorable verdict may be sealed. When the Day of Atonement arrives, Jews do not eat and drink. Wearing of leather is also avoided as well as the anointing of oils or perfumes. Jews also do not bathe and wash during this time and prohibit themselves from any marital relations activities.
The High Holy Days encompass the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. For ten days, Jewish people clean up their slate during the High Holy Days to prepare themselves for the year ahead.