It’s High Time for some Holidays

 It’s that time of year again. As the evenings grow cooler (or are supposed to) and the leaves start falling from the trees, it means another year on the Jewish calendar is coming to a close. Tomorrow is the final day of the year 5777, and in the evening, we will ring in the new year with family festivities and a whole lot of food. That’s right, it’s High time for some Holidays.

Different religions and nationalities celebrate the New Year at a different time of year. Chinese New Year typically falls between January 21 and February 20, during the coldest part of the winter in Canada. Hindus don’t actually have one common day and instead have at least three different New Year’s days on the calendar. From what I read, “the celebration of the new year has more to do with community, language and region, than with religious affiliation.”

For Judaism, while some feel like the spring, during the month of Nissan, when Passover falls, is the new year, the Holiday in fact happens when summer turns to fall, in the Jewish month of Tishrei. The Holiday that many of you have heard of is called Rosh Hashanah, which directly translated from Hebrew is head (Rosh) of the year (Hashanah).  Simply put, it’s Jewish New Years.

There are no street parties, fireworks, or counting down to midnight beside a dropping ball. Rosh Hashanah, like all Jewish Holidays, begins at sundown, and  people celebrate in different ways. But one common thread through all celebrations, like so many other Jewish Holidays, is food and family. What would a holiday be without this pairing?

Not to minimize the role that synagogue, prayer and the blowing of the shofar (the traditional ram’s horn) play on this most important Holiday, but today I am focusing mainly on food and family.

David and I both come from large families (David is the youngest of five kids and I’m in the middle of three), all of our siblings are married, each with at least two children. If you put our two immediate families together you have more than enough people to play a baseball game, with extra pitchers in the bullpen and players on the bench. So, when it’s Holidays time, we draw on a large group with whom to celebrate.

Our wider family circle is just too big to celebrate together (and members of the family live all over the world), so we don’t see everyone in one evening. Whether it’s a large group of 25-30 people, with tables lined up across the back of my house, or a more intimate crowd of 10-12 in my dining room, I always look forward to the Holidays.

The emails about menu planning and food combinations start swirling around weeks (sometimes months!) in advance. Who’s making the soup? How many proteins do we need? Are five kinds of dessert enough? Will the children eat any of the food we are preparing? Do we care if the children eat, as they will behave so badly anyway and probably won’t eat anything, no matter what it is….

As the days draw closer to Rosh Hashanah, I suddenly realize that Matthew grew two inches over the summer and his only nice pants look more like capris. Julia’s feet are suddenly two sizes larger and running shoes really don’t go with her beautiful new puffy pink dress. Should Nessa wear tights with her dress, as she most definitely will bum walk all over the floor.

Do I throw disposables on the table and make it easy or do I dress up my dining room table for once and pull out the fine china? Do I dare try to host an elegant evening? Okay, forget that thought – elegant and High Holidays meals don’t go together.

Will I get the annual Rosh Hashanah photo of the kids? I have been successful a few times, but usually someone misbehaves and the resulting picture is too embarrassing to share publicly. I have included just a few here, as really most are not acceptable for public consumption.

Matthew’s first Rosh Hashanah, from September 2007
The kids actually cooperated for a fun Rosh Hashanah photo last year
They behaved for a nice picture on the eve of the Holiday last year

And since the Holidays begins tomorrow, I had better get cooking. To all my readers, whether you celebrate or not, I wish you a happy and healthy New Year. Let the celebrations for 5778 begin!

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