If you look at your child’s school calendar, you’ll notice that there are a lot of holidays in September. And one of them is New Year’s. Wait, what? That’s right, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins this year on the evening of September 29 and ends on Tuesday, October 1 in the evening. So how do you talk to your kids about Rosh Hashanah? Whether you’re Jewish or not, this is a great opportunity to celebrate its significance.
Unlike traditional New Year’s, Rosh Hashanah takes a more spiritual approach to the welcoming of the New Year. Translating to Head of the Year, Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of the day that God created Adam and Eve. "Rosh Hashanah gives us all an opportunity to come together as a family,” Rabbi Cassi Kail of Temple Beth El in San Pedro, CA, tells Romper. “To share our lives together, cook together, eat together, and pray together. It is an important time when we can put everything else aside and reflect on the past year; the good times and hard times, the struggles and the victories.” Sounds amazing, right? Learn how you can make the most of Rosh Hashanah with your kiddos by bringing up some of the talking points below.
1. Discuss The Differences
Your kid might be used to the pomp and circumstance that surrounds New Year’s. But try explaining that Rosh Hashanah isn’t about noisemakers and fireworks. “You can talk about how this New Year isn’t about staying up late, but about sharing laughter and kindness, good food and songs with people we love,” Dr. Elisa Robyn, an educator in Jewish studies, tells Romper. That way, your child won’t expect to hear Auld Lang Syne blasting in the background.
2. Talk About Mistakes
Throughout the year there are times when we make mistakes and there are times when we do some really good things. “Rosh Hashanah is a time we can think about all that we have done, and talk about how we can make the next year better by learning from those mistakes and honoring all the good we have done,” says Rabbi Kail. Instead of focusing on the mistakes, your child can learn how to make things better moving forward.
3. Focus On The Food
Food is a fun way to get your kids to learn about Rosh Hashanah. Explain how apples and honey are as synonymous with Rosh Hashanah as the holiday itself. “We fill ourselves with that same feeling as we start a new year full of opportunities to share a sweetness with ourselves and the world around us,” explains Rabbi Kail. So break out the challah and honey cake and talk to your kids about the spiritual significance of the foods served during the New Year.
4. Make It Matter
For many people, Rosh Hashanah can be viewed as an example of what’s to come for the upcoming year. “Everything we do on Rosh Hashanah impacts our year so it is a good time to make a ‘first impression,’" Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a clinical professional counselor, tells Romper. “If spending quality time with your family is important, Rosh Hashanah provides an especially good time to make that happen.” Whether that’s promising to try to spend more mealtimes around the table as a family (instead of mindless munching in front of the TV), Rosh Hashanah can be a springboard towards better bonding with your loved ones.
5. Set Goals
Since Rosh Hashanah is a new beginning, it’s a great time to take stock of where you’ve been—and more importantly, where you want to go—as a family. “Instead of focusing on the past and being judged for the past year, view the holidays as a judgment on who you want to be this year,” advises Rabbi Slatkin. Ask your child who inspires him (kudos if he mentions you or your partner), and what are some of his uniquely special talents that he can contribute to mankind. It will get your child to think not just about Rosh Hashanah, but the bigger picture, too.
6. Use It As A Springboard Towards Spirituality
Rosh Hashanah is an opportunity to bring more spirituality into our lives. “When we blow the shofar, we are coronating the King,” says Rabbi Slotkin. “By emphasizing this aspect of the holiday, you can make it more exciting for your children.” You can also talk to your kids about their own religious as well as spiritual beliefs, and see if you can answer any questions they might have.
7. Practice Kindness
Rosh Hashanah can be a wonderful time to talk with your kids about how they can be kind to each other. “We might make it safe to say ‘I am sorry’ without feeling scared or embarrassed or teach them think about a time when they were not very nice to someone and how they can act differently,” says Dr. Robyn. But be sure to let them know that it’s okay to make mistakes—what’s most important is what they learn from it.
Just like any New Year, Rosh Hashanah is a perfect time to appreciate all the positive things you have in your life. Allow your child to embrace the lessons of the holiday (and not just be grateful for a couple of school days off) and you might start some traditions that will last a lifetime. Chag Sameach.