| Challah or hallah is a traditional Jewish bread eaten on Shabbat and Jewish holidays (except Passover, when leavened bread is not allowed). This association with Judaism is most prevalent in the United States, as challah is also a traditional bread in numerous European countries, such as Hungary, among local non-Jewish peasant populations.
Also see: Challah Recipes - Challah and Bread Baking - How to braid Challah
On Shabbat every Jew is commanded to eat three meals (one on Friday night and two on Saturday). In Judaism, a "meal" includes bread. Hence, Jews will traditionally eat challah at the beginning of their Shabbat meal. As with any other type of bread, the blessing "Baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech ha'olam, hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz" is recited before the challah is eaten. Translated, it means "Blessed are you, Lord, our God, king of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth."
The dough is made with an especially large number of eggs, and sweetened with honey. The dough is traditionally cut into three rope-shaped pieces and then braided together before baking. An egg wash is applied to the dough to give a golden color after being baked. Poppy or sesame seeds are sprinkled on the bread before baking; the seeds represent manna that God gave to the Israelites to eat while they wandered in the desert.
On Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish new year, raisins are added to the dough and the Challah is braided into a special crown shape, representing God's crown.
The name refers to a small piece of dough which is reserved and baked separately. This is done in commemoration of when the temple stood in Israel. Originally, during temple times, the dough was given to a Cohen (priest). Since the destruction, the dough is burned and thrown away after a special prayer is said.