September 15, 2023

Round Challah for Rosh Hashanah – More than a Shape

As the Jewish New Year begins, food has its cultural significance like many other holidays do.

During this time, foods like apples and honey often decorate the plates.  But as far as bakery goes, one of the more prominent items is challah bread.  You may be familiar with the typical braided challah, but round challah is used for such a significant holiday.  And it’s not just for looks.

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Challah bread is often made and consumed for Shabbat, and this is where you see the more common braided challah.  The number of braids used each has its significance but is not specific to a certain time of year, given that Shabbat is held weekly.

While Round Challah can be made any time of year, it is most often made in honor of Rosh Hashanah.  The symbolic shape has a variety of meanings, but they all relate to the new year in some way.  Some round challahs are made in a spiral pattern, and others maintain a braided design, but the key feature is the overall circular shape.  It is meant to represent continuity, the wheel of the seasons, or a spiral of upward progress.  At its core, these all follow the concept of time being cyclical, and the shape represents the year’s cycle.

Some challahs are adorned with various toppings, partially for flavor but mostly, for further symbolism.  Many challahs are salted as a direct reference to specific Jewish traditions.  On the opposing side of flavors is Round Challahs with Raisins; and their sweetness that symbolizes a sweet new year.

As this sacred time for the Jewish religion arrives, many delicious foods can be found throughout these next ten days.  But it is important to remember that these foods are not the sole reason nor the primary focus of this time.  It’s worth taking time to learn about these holidays, so should you engage in the customs or indulge in the foods, you can do so with some extra knowledge and respect for the culture.