Wondering What to Say on Yom Kippur? Here are the Appropriate Greetings

Yom Kippur, which translates to the "Day of Atonement," is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. It is the last of 10 days of repentance starting with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), and is typically marked with worship, reflection, and abstention, including 25 hours of fasting.

Those who observe Yom Kippur traditionally abstain from comforts (like wearing leather shoes or jewelry), wear white (to symbolize a clean slate and fresh start), and spend the day in Yom Kippur prayer. The only festive meal is the one to break the fast after sundown.

The traditional Yom Kippur greeting does not correspond to a typical "happy holiday" message, like one that you might share on other more joyous occasions. Because of the solemnity of the observance, appropriate Jewish greetings on Yom Kippur are more about meaningfulness and reflection. So, while it's not standard to wish someone a "happy Yom Kippur," it is certainly appropriate to wish them a meaningful one.

When is Yom Kippur this year?

The holiday doesn’t fall on the same day each year, because the Jewish calendar is luni-solar. (Its months are based on lunar months, and its years are based on solar years.) According to the Jewish calendar, the current year is 5782. On the Gregorian calendar, this year, Yom Kippur will begin at sundown on Tuesday, October 4 and end at sundown on Wednesday, October 5, 2022.

As Yom Kippur approaches, you might be wondering what to say to someone who observes the Jewish high holiday. Ahead, read about appropriate Yom Kippur greetings to share with friends and loved ones, both in English and in Hebrew.

Traditional Yom Kippur Greetings

Jews who observe Yom Kippur ask G-d to forgive them for any sins committed in the last year and seal them in the "Book of Life" for another year. Therefore, Jews wish each other "G'mar chatimah tovah," which translates to "a good final sealing," before and on Yom Kippur. More simply, "g'mar tov" translates to "a good seal."

Photo credit: Boston Globe - Getty Images
Photo credit: Boston Globe - Getty Images

Common Yom Kippur Greeting in English

Because Yom Kippur is a fasting holiday, it is common for Jews to wish each other an "easy fast," or say, "May you have an easy fast."

Photo credit: Al Seib - Getty Images
Photo credit: Al Seib - Getty Images

Other Yom Kippur Greetings in Hebrew and Yiddish

"Good Yuntif" (Yiddish) and "Yom Tov" (Hebrew) are also traditional wishes for a good holy day.

For the entire season, it’s appropriate to nod to the new year ahead. The most common greeting on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is simply, "Shana Tova" in Hebrew, which translates to "good year" in English.

Sometimes, the “Shana Tova” greeting is made more effusive by adding “u’metuka” ("and sweet") to the end. The greeting “Shana tova u’metuka” translates to wishing someone “a good and sweet year.”

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