Celebrating the Jewish New Year will look and feel very different this year. Perhaps you are wondering how to make your holiday meaningful? The question isn't new. It evolves as families do - over time. But history's course has thrown us a curve ball this year presenting unique challenges for 2020.
How can you respond creatively? How can you create new rituals that build anticipation and offer those you love a renewed sense of meaning during a trying time? We all know the limits of relating virtually through a two-dimensional screen. Within this imposed boundary, where can you find the space and freedom to come up with something fresh and inspiring - a very appropriate task at the Jewish new year when newness is celebrated and fresh starts make sense?
This very question inspired Apple Days. Years ago, I had a real need for a fresh approach to one of my favorite holidays. I needed a completely new approach to guide my celebration with my own children around the time when I felt the loss of my mother most acutely. Holidays are like that. I found my new path right in the middle of a local apple orchard one September day. As we felt the earth, its dirt beneath our fingernails, and plucked robust fruits in the autumn sun, apple-picking was becoming a tradition before I even realized it was happening. What had started one afternoon as "just another plan on the calendar" was becoming an annual ritual. We planned to go again the next year, and then the next, with much anticipation. Over time apple-picking helped me to begin to heal. I gave this tradition to Katy in my book.
This year we all need some degree of healing, and the way that we approach the Jewish holidays offers a unique chance to create opportunities for repair and renewed purpose. It occurs to me that Katy's beloved "Apple Day" can take on a life outside of the book as families look for novel ways to celebrate.
Here are a few ideas inspired by the book:
Pick Your Own Apples This Year
When I go apple picking, I pick two huge buckets, many more than we need for our own family. These apples travel home in my trunk to become apple pies and Jewish apple cakes. I will make applesauce to put into mason jars for friends, and munch many more as snacks. We also give many away with great satisfaction.
Think of how you've celebrated the High Holidays in the past by coming up with a list of anything that your child remembers and looks forward to. This may include going to holiday services, visiting family, hearing familiar sounds or songs, listening to the shofar blast, cooking together, reading favorite books, wearing new clothes, eating a favorite dish, making holiday cards, or cleaning the house for company. Personalize this list and talk about each item to define what made it meaningful to your child. Together discover which aspect of the holiday you most want to preserve and re-imagine a new way to do it with awareness and intention. Make a specific plan together about how to make it happen.
Questions to facilitate your planning: What do you love most about Rosh Hashanah? Why? (Try to focus the conversation on close relationships associated with celebrating together, sensory experiences, such as the scent or taste of a favorite dish, or visual symbols.) Can we find a new way to make sure that we get that feeling or experience that you are looking for? How can we create it for us? How can we give it to other people in our family? What materials, ingredients, or equipment will we need?