|Candles are a given|
Today I wished one of the teachers at DD's school Shana Tova (A Good Year) and, knowing that I'm a single parent, she asked me, "what are you doing for the festival? Are you invited?" And a few years ago my father asked me what I was doing for one of the festivals to which I replied, "I'm celebrating with friends." He came back with, "oh good, your friends are looking after you then?" WTF? I take it I don't need to explain how I feel about these inferences?
A few years ago I was deeply moved by a single mother who wrote about always being invited to other families to celebrate the major Jewish holidays. She was writing about the Pesach seder but her thoughts apply to all the calendar events. Her conclusion was that just because they are a family without a man at its head, this doesn't mean that they're not a real family. And as such, they should have their own traditions. She made the seder at home that year so that her children would have childhood memories of their own family seder rather than remembering that they were always the guests at someone else's table.
I have similar thoughts about Rosh Hashana. Not the whole festival - there are four meals involved in a two-day festival. Personally I prefer to keep the celebrations down to one festive meal per day otherwise it just gets gluttonous.
It's lovely to be invited out and we are going to friends for the final lunch on Tuesday. We also have a brunch in our small synagogue on Monday. But what about the two evenings and especially the Sunday night which, to secular Jews, is the biggy? (To religious Jews they're both biggies). I want to stay at home and establish ourselves as a family with traditions. I want DD to have special memories of Rosh Hashana. I want us to have family traditions.
Part of this urge came from Chris Mosler at Thinly Spread who back in 2011 wrote about their special family Christmas Eve and the snuggle-sack tradition. Yesterday Chris told me that they still do it and her kids still love it. I've never forgotten that post and I've always wanted to do something similar. We don't do Christmas and most of our festivals have plenty of customs already. However, Rosh Hashana is a special time with not much going on other than synagogue and meals. Perfect for making up our own unique R"H style.
There is a tradition of a R"H seder which is a series of foods during the meal that symbolize things to do with the new year. For example, some people have a fish's head on the table for the head of the year. We dip apple in honey for a sweet year (we also drizzle honey on our challah and eat honey cake). We won't be having a fish head and we don't like honey but you get the picture. And we will have some symbollic food - I'll let you know when I've decided what.
I'm collecting my thoughts and ideas. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated in the comments. The theme is obviously the New Year and I'm not against a gift or two. Obviously I'll be back with a full report after the holiday.