I am passionate about renewing the festivals that are important to us so that we celebrate them in a way that is authentic to our unique family values and culture. I have noticed that there are many guides and articles about how Waldorf-inspired families celebrate Christian and/or Pagan festivals but very few about how others mindfully celebrate their family’s festivals and I want to change that.
It is my hope that this journal entry and many more to come will inspire others with similar belief systems to renew, recreate and celebrate this festival in their own way. I also believe it is vital that those who don’t share the same spiritual heritage acknowledge and witness the beauty and goodness in others’ traditions. There is so much to learn and enjoy about our diversity.
What is Rosh Hashanah?
Simply put, Rosh Hashanah celebrates the Jewish New Year. It is the first day of the Jewish High Holidays and falls in September or October, depending on the year. Rosh Hashanah is a two-day celebration which begins on the first day of Tishrei (the first month of the Jewish civil year). Rosh Hashanah traditionally begins with the sounding the shofar (a hollowed-out ram’s horn). Many families attend synagogue services on this day, recite special liturgy about “teshuva” or repentence for sins. Festive meals are enjoyed with family including symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey (evoking a sweet new year), round braided challah bread (to symbolize the cyclical nature of the year) and pomagranate (symbolizing a fruitful new year).
The rest of this Journal entry is in interview style. Jeanine Levine who writes at A Brooklyn Homeschool was generous enough to share how she and her family celebrate Rosh Hashanah together in New York City each year. Thank you Jeanine.
What does Rosh Hashanah symbolize and mean to you and your family?
When I think of Rosh Hashanah, the first thing I think of is family. Outside of Israel, Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah for for 2 days, many abstaining from work for those days. In NYC, where we live, schools are closed. For us this means we travel to my husband’s parents house. His grandmothers join us there as well as his brothers. Aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors will join us for parts of these days. We spend two full days together, chatting and catching up, laughing, cooking, and of course, eating. My in-laws are wonderful hosts and go above and beyond to make sure that everyone is comfortable, happy and well fed.”
Can you draw a parallel between this festival and the natural world around us? Is there a connection between what is happening seasonally and what this festival symbolizes?
On Rosh Hashanah it is customary for Jews to eat apples dipped in honey to bring about a sweet new year. Like many families, we go apple picking every September, so this easily ties into the special holiday food and tradition.
What beliefs/virtues/values do you hope to bring to light by honouring this tradition?
In the Jewish religion, Jews are called upon to reflect on their lives over the past year at Rosh Hashanah. As a family, we believe setting aside time for individual reflection, meditations and planning for a better future is an important practice whether you are religious or not. If you attend a Rosh Hashanah service in a synagogue, you will hear a member of the congregation blow the shofar, or ram’s horn. One thing that the shofar signals is that you are called to wake up and begin your personal reflection.
How do you set the scene for Rosh Hashanah? Is there anything you do in advance before the first day to mark or model that this time is coming? (Decor? Creating a small scene on a table?)
We also buy new clothes for the holiday and talk about getting dressed up and why we choose to do that on important holidays. Normally, my children have full control of their clothing choices and I want to be sure they are prepared to dress up in something they might not normally wear (particularly a suit for my son). Talking about it beforehand helps proactively avoid any disagreement on the morning of the holiday. I learned this lesson the hard way and I doubt many in our family will forget the tears and screams from a few years ago of “NO FANCY CLOTHES!” At least I won’t!
How do you prepare the day before Rosh Hashanah? (Food? Decor? Rituals?)
How are children involved during Rosh Hashanah? What do they look forward to the most?
My children look forward to going to their grandparents house to spend a lot of time with their family. They love all of the attention and the time they have to play outside. They like to hear the shofar in the synagogue and love to dip apples in honey!
Anything else you would like to share about celebrating Rosh Hashanah with your young children?