Next Sunday, the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah will begin, and we have slowly been preparing to celebrate it.
I feel like before I go further, I should say that although Rosh Hashanah is a Jewish festival, I am not Jewish myself! My husband is Jewish as is all of his side of our family, and so being Jewish is a big part of our daughter’s heritage, and we hope it will be part of her identity as she grows up. This is why it is important to us that, even though we are a secular family, we want to celebrate the Jewish festivals alongside holidays like Christmas and Easter (which my husband did not celebrate at all before we married).
For the last couple of weeks, we have been reading some books. I have found it hard to find well-written and engaging children’s books on Jewish festivals – if any authors could rectify this it would be great! – but these are all sweet, and Frida enjoys reading them:
- Apples and Honey: A Rosh Hashanah Story is probably my favourite of the three books we have, highlighting the different aspects of celebrating the festival. We also have the Chanukah version
- Rosh Hashanah Is Coming! is a board book and also highlights different aspects of the celebrations such as wearing new clothes, listening to the shofar, and of course eating apples with honey.
- Apple Days: A Rosh Hashanah Story tells a sweet story of a girl who looks forward to making applesauce with her mother and how her community help her when her mother cannot be there. I have to say I really don’t like the illustrations much in this book.
I am planning on trying my hand at making challah bread with Frida for the first time – this is usually an oblong shape but for Rosh Hashanah it is round to symbolise the cyclic nature of the year, and a year in which life and blessings have no end (there are other interpretations too). I’ve never made challah before and my husband is a bit sceptical that I’ll be able to do it, but I’m going to embrace the challenge!
Inspired by the story of Apple Days (see above) Frida and I will make simple applesauce together, and my husband would like us to bake a honey cake together. We will eat apples dipped in honey to symbolise hope for a sweet year ahead, fish to symbolise abundance (though not my husband who is allergic!) and pomegranate seeds to symbolise the many good deeds we hope to achieve over the coming year.
We will visit family to celebrate with them. It is traditional to wear new clothes, so Frida will wear a new outfit which she has chosen (I will use this as an opportunity to buy something for myself for the cooler weather ahead – I’m in need of a new jumper).
We will also buy Frida a small gift to celebrate – she has asked for a soft Gruffalo toy so that’s what we will give her.
As this is a celebration of a New Year, it invites reflection on the year that has passed as well as setting intentions for the new year to come. For me, this ties in with the “back to school” feeling that September always brings, that of new beginnings and fresh focus that I always find far more compelling than January. As part of this process, I have been making time to sit at my desk to write and reflect.
I have been reflecting on the last year:
- what went well,
- what didn’t go so well,
- what can I learn from what I have experienced, and
- where can I grow(as a parent and as a human).
I’ve also been thinking about the coming year:
- setting intentions and goals (for my own self-care, my work, my family, my marriage, and my friendships),
- visualising how living in line with these intentions and meeting these goals would feel,
- reminding myself why I do what I do, and
- noting down what I want to do more of (and less of).
I’ve also been revisiting our family values and our changing needs, and checking in with our current family rhythm (this is good timing as I’ve just started to teach a new group, so I’m doing the work alongside them!)
This is a wonderful exercise whether you are celebrating Rosh Hashanah or not, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend taking some time to do some similar reflection as part of your self-care practice. You can also involve your children and guide them in some gentle, age-appropriate reflections.
Visiting and celebrating with family, making and eating new foods, receiving gifts, and the general atmosphere of festivity are all wonderful, but can also end up feeling a little overwhelming for young children. I’m going to be ensuring that Frida has plenty of down time around the period of celebration, and that we do our best to stick to our usual rhythms where possible.
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Calm Celebrations is designed to help you create meaningful and beloved family celebrations that will bring you joy for years to come, whilst staying calm and connected to your children in the process.
The first week of the course will focus on crafting meaningful celebrations and building family traditions that will be cherished for years to come. The second week will focus on peaceful parenting in the context of celebrations. You will learn practical ways to reduce overwhelm – for you and for your children – and ways to keep calm even when things feel anything but. And there will also be a bonus week looking at gifts, toys, and play.