A new year begins when the sun sets today. Rosh Hashanah is the famous Jewish holiday that literally marks the "head/first of the year" and symbolizes a period of reflection and hope for achieving personal improvements to live a renewed life. The schedule for a Jewish holiday as well as the typical Jewish calendar centers on sunset being the pivotal time slot as opposed to contemporary society where midnight is the focal point.
According to the Hebrew calendar, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated during the first two days of the seventh month (called Tishri) and marks the first official celebratory day within a period of many Jewish holidays. Historical and biblical references to this holiday are listed under a couple of different titles. The two historical titles used are Yom Ha-Zikkaron, which has the literal translation of "the day of remembrance" and Yom Teruah, which literally means the "day of the sounding of the shofar" whereby the shofar refers to a ram's horn that is customarily sounded.
Other Jewish holidays set to occur within close proximity include: Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah. In 2013, Rosh Hashanah will begin on September 4, and mark the welcoming of year number 5,774 within the Jewish calendar.
While it is difficult to hear "New Year" and not have images conjured up regarding paper hats and champagne glasses, this holiday is vastly different from the New Year's festivities happening on December 31st. While renewal is core to both holidays, Rosh Hashanah is a day devoted to prayer and used to metaphorically cast away sins. Some practices historically were devoted to casting away sins (Tashlikh) such as emptying pockets into moving bodies of water or dipping apples in honey. The act of specifically dipping an apple into honey had a twofold symbolization; one, serving as the manifestation of wishes for a pleasant and "sweet as honey" new year, and, two, an act of physically casting away possessions as though they were sins.
Work is not allowed on Rosh Hashanah where the daily schedule is instead expected to include time spent at the synagogue, and where thoughts and energies are to be directed to contemplation for a refreshed mindset.[Images Via Wikimedia Creative Commons with attribution to Dr. Avishai Teicher Pikiwiki Israel]