Tomorrow night starts the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashana (translated, it means "The Head of the Year). Now for a little lesson...
Typically in the US the new year involves parties, drinking, and staying up till at least midnight. On the other hand, Rosh Hashana is usually celebrated by going to dinner with friends and family, then to the synagogue for a few prayers, and we eat apples and honey. There is, however, one important similarity between the Jewish New Year and the American one: Many Americans use the New Year as a time to plan a better life, making "resolutions." Likewise, the Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year. More
The apples and honey are symbolic for the year to come. They are supposed to represent the sweet new year that we would like to have. If you have not put honey on apples before, it is awesome stuff and should be done as soon as possible. It is a great snack anytime during the year. Some other traditions are using bread and honey, instead of apples. Also, many people go to a river or stream and throw bread into it. Technically, you are supposed to "empty your pockets", so don't bring your wallet, keys and phone. This is called Tashlikh ("casting off"). This practice is to symbolize the casting off of our sins. This is the
After Rosh Hashana, we spend the next 10 days asking for forgiveness for all of our sins over the previous year. There are lots of technicalities to how you should do this, but I am not going into that. So, on the 10th day of the new year we have Yom Kippur. This is the Day of Atonement or the day we ask g-d to be inscribed in the "book of life" for the coming year. I like to compare this to the twelve step programs. The programs tell you to take "one day at a time." Well, the Jews take "one year at a time."
Basically, on Yom Kippur we ask g-d for forgiveness once a year. This could be compared to Catholics who ask forgiveness every time they go to confession. Or at least that is way I perceive. I certainly don't know enough about it to say very much.
The coolest part of Yom Kippur is the "sounding" of the shofar. This is when a person blows on a ram's horn.