This Is Why There’s a Fish Head on Your Rosh Hashanah Table

It was the moment we’d all been waiting for—or more accurately, slightly dreading: time to consume the fish heads. My mom picked them up from the fishmonger that morning, and they’d sat in a plastic, ice-filled bag on the counter, my siblings and I giv…

It was the moment we’d all been waiting for—or more accurately, slightly dreading: time to consume the fish heads. My mom picked them up from the fishmonger that morning, and they’d sat in a plastic, ice-filled bag on the counter, my siblings and I giving it a wide berth. Now, gleaming, silver-scaled and freshly cooked, they were being carried out on an intricate platter. With gaping mouths and glassy eyes, the fish heads took center place on our Rosh Hashanah table. “Dig in,” said my dad.

As a kid, I couldn’t quite get behind the practice of eating fish heads on Rosh Hashanah. I was awed and alarmed, unable to look away from the fishs’ glassy eyeballs, loath to take a bite. Usually, I’d take just a tiny forkful to fulfill my obligations.

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The Festive Purim Gifting Tradition I’ll Never Skip

As a kid, nothing filled me with more glee than waking up on Purim morning. It wasn’t the sticky, jam-filled hamantaschen I looked forward to (although I certainly ate my fair share), or even the costume I’d decided to wear, carefully chosen and laid o…

As a kid, nothing filled me with more glee than waking up on Purim morning. It wasn’t the sticky, jam-filled hamantaschen I looked forward to (although I certainly ate my fair share), or even the costume I’d decided to wear, carefully chosen and laid out neatly beside my bed. It was what I knew the day would bring: sharing mishloach manot.

There are four mitzvot (positive commandments) associated with Purim: charity, eating a festive meal, listening to readings from the Book of Esther, and giving mishloach manot. The latter, also known as shalach manot, are gifts of food and drink exchanged with family and friends. Sharing these treat-filled packages is a thrilling tradition—it’s also, arguably, the most important part of the holiday, with ancient, storied roots that stem from the Book of Esther, or as it’s more commonly known, the Megillah.

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