The New York Times brings us a short slideshow of photographs by Rina Castelnuovo of the preparations for Yom Kippur in Jerusalem. It's an interesting feature which provides us with a tiny glimpse into how Orthodox Jews prepare for the Day of Atonement, considered to be one of the holiest and most solemn days of the year, and whose central theme is atonement and repentance for sins against both God and one's fellow man.
Jewish oral tradition calls for observant Jews to refrain from eating and drinking, wearing leather shoes, bathing, annointing oneself with perfumes, and marital relations for a day before Yom Kippur. Another tradition is the ritual slaughter of chickens known as kapparot, where the sins of a person are symbolically transferred to a fowl, which is swung around a person's head three times before being slaughtered. The fellow in the above photograph is swinging a hen over the heads of his sons, presumably to free them from sin.
All religions have 'unusual' traditions and rituals...the fasting, the sacrifice of animals, wearing special clothes, abstinence...are all traditions that are common to all religions.
By the way, for those of us who live in New York City...Yom Kippur means that B&H is closed.
Yom Kippur in Jerusalem