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Day 186: A Different New Year

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, begins at sundown today. Normally our family would celebrate with festive meals with the extended family, and five-hour-long services at synagogue (there were always kids’ programs, babysitting, and breakout sessions too.) This year synagogue services aren’t happening in the same way and we’re not even at home; so what are we going to do?

Here’s what I’ve planned:

Friday Night
We’ll have the usual festive meal (minus the extended family) with round challahs, kiddush over the wine (or grape juice,) and sweet foods (for a sweet new year.) We bought five different types of honey from a local honey farm, so we’ll have a honey tasting and see which one is the family favourite. We’ll also have a game that relies on puns and randomly selected foods to create blessings or wishes for the new year. Some ideas I’ve got so far:

  • Peas (May this year bring us world peas)
  • Turnip (May the right opportunities turnip for you this year)
  • Root vegetables (May you have lots of people rooting for you this year)
  • Grapes (May we all have a grape year)
  • Tomatoes (May you be able to say ‘I feel good from my head tomatoes‘)

You get the idea. It’s corny, and the kids will love it — N especially grooves on word play.

Saturday
We’ll do a few of the Rosh Hashana-specific prayers, including the one on which the Leonard Cohen song “Who by Fire?” is based (and yes, we’ll teach the kids “Who by Fire?”). We’ll discuss one of the Rosh Hashanah Torah readings, probably the one about Akeidat Yitzhak, the “Binding of Isaac.” We’ll bake, decorate, and enjoy a birthday cake for dessert (because in the prayer service we read, “Hayom harat olam,” which has sometimes been interpreted as “Today is the birthday of the world”), and I anticipate reading all of our Rosh Hashana storybooks.

Sunday
I’ve planned to go hiking at a nearby waterfall. We’ll do tashlich (a ceremony in which we symbolically cast our sins away) with water-soluble paper; we can each write or draw what we want to cast off this year and then watch it dissolve as soon as it touches the water. Another possibility is to write it on leaves using wet-erase markers so that the leaf is washed clean in the river, a play on “turn over a new leaf.” I’ll also blow the shofar over the lake in the morning, and maybe again at the waterfall. We’ll end with havdallah and a campfire.


On a more personal level, I’ve been reflecting on the changes we’ve seen in the past year and what possibilities I want to embrace in the coming year.

I want my life to be joyful when possible, purposeful otherwise, and always intentional. I don’t want to wait til the end of the year to evaluate and change course. If something doesn’t work for me (or for us as a family,) I hope I’ll have the courage to change it.

I’m raising my expectations this year: we should all be able to thrive, and if we’re not, something needs to change. Since the schools closed in March I’ve seen all of my children thrive in ways they hadn’t before. None of us should just be passing the time between waking and going to bed.

I want to express my gratitude more, and in ways that are more evident to my children. I am deeply grateful for everything I’ve been given in life — I certainly didn’t earn it! — and I want them to see and understand the world that way too.

On the physical plane, I will give my body more of what it needs: adequate sleep (we’ve been getting 9 hours a night up at the cottage and I feel great,) food that nourishes me and makes me feel good, and exercise to keep me strong and healthy.


I wish all of my readers, Jewish and not, celebrating and not, a sweet and good year (even if not necessarily happy) in good health. May you have everything you need and most of what you want.

See you next year!

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