How to celebrate Yom Kippur 2021 – best greetings, messages and traditions

Yom Kippur: Thousands pray on eve of Atonement

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Jewish people across the world are observing Yom Kippur over the next day. But what is Yom Kippur and what traditions will Jewish people be following? And what should you say to people who are observing Yom Kippur?

What is Yom Kippur?

Yom Kippur is a day of fasting for Jewish people. Yom Kippur translates into English as Day of Atonement.

Yom Kippur is a day for reflecting on the past year and asking for forgiveness for any sins you might have committed.

The event takes place 10 days after Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and marks the end of a period of reflection called the Days of Repentance or Days of Awe.

Jewish people believe on Rosh Hashanah, God – Hashem – writes everyone’s name into one of two books: the Book of Life or the Book of Death.

There are 10 days of reflection before the final judgement is made on Yom Kippur, which is why it is a day of atonement.

On Yom Kippur, Jewish people might go to synagogue for a service.

The beginning of Yom Kippur is marked with the recital of a prayer service called Kol Nidre, which takes place at sundown.

When is Yom Kippur celebrated?

This year, Yom Kippur started at 7.01pm tonight, September 15, 2021.

Those who observe Yom Kippur will fast for 25 hours, ending their fast at 8pm on September 16, 2021.

The extra hour is added because according to tradition the fast should begin and end at sundown, but the 25-hour period allows for discrepancies around when sunset takes place.

How do I wish someone a happy Yom Kippur?

If you know someone who’s observing Yom Kippur and you want to wish them well, great! But don’t wish them a ‘happy Yom Kippur.’

Yom Kippur is more about self-reflection, not celebrations or partying.

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The greeting used on Yom Kippur is “G’mar chatima tova” – in English this means, “May you be sealed in the book of life.”

Don’t forget, in Hebrew the ‘ch’ sound is not pronounced like in ‘choose’, but more of a throaty sound, emphasising the ‘H’.

This is because according to the Jewish faith, your fate is decided on Rosh Hashanah and confirmed on Yom Kippur.

Another simple Yom Kippur message to send your Jewish friends is “have an easy fast” or “have a meaningful fast.”

What happens at the breaking of the fast?

A Neilah service is held at the end of Yom Kippur and an ancient instrument called the shofar is blown, marking the end of the fast.

Sometimes break fast meals are held at synagogues, but often these will take place at people’s homes with their families and friends.

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