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Honestly, I could never quite figure out or identify with the custom of drinking to a stupor to “celebrate” the change in number of the January First “New Year.” Even though I like the taste of some wines, beers and cocktails, my socializing isn’t around drinking them. It was never our thing.

Also, as I was reaching the age when drinking is more accepted and legally permitted in New York, way back when, I was also getting more involved and attracted to Jewish Life.


My husband and I married pretty young, and then two months later we were off on a boat to Israel. In 1970, such goyishe customs as December 31 as “New Year’s Eve” was hard to come by, and we weren’t looking for it. American holidays like Thanksgiving and New Year’s on January first were totally off of our radar and calendars. We became totally immersed in the Jewish Calendar, holidays and Israeli special days. And to be perfectly frank, not only didn’t we miss the American ones, we totally forgot they existed. The only reminders were the increase in tourists and visitors during those times, since family and friends could more easily take a vacation abroad.

Here in Israel celebrating Jewish Holidays is very easy. They are the national holidays when offices, businesses, stores etc are all closed. Torah observant Jews don’t have to use up all of their permitted days off on the holidays and annoy their bosses by requesting to leave work early on holiday eves.

The Jewish New Year is Rosh Hashanah, and it’s a two day holiday, three if you include the fact that it begins before nightfall the day before. Only workers in emergency services, like police, military and hospitals have to work, because saving a life overrides everything in Judaism.

We pray to Gd on Rosh Hashanah, and the prayers include the blowing of the shofar, a sound that wakes up our soul.

We eat four festive meals over Rosh Hashanah, two evening meals and two late lunches. The object isn’t to drink, even though there is usually wine on the table. We celebrate and ask Gd for a wonderful new year full of blessings, health and joyous occasions. We ask Gd to defeat our enemies and make us strong. We ask Gd to make us a “head” not a “tail,” which is why many people have the “head of a fish” or some kosher animal on the table. I’ve been making a “fruit head” for many years.

Every year for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I make a “fruit head” for a healthy wonderful year for family and loved ones.

The only thing I wish for every year when it hits the first of January is that I’ll remember to put down the correct year number when filling out forms and writing checks. I must admit that remembering to write “2017” has been an effort all year long, so remembering “2018” will be an even greater challenge. May that be my greatest difficulty. What’s yours? And if you do celebrate January 1st as your New Year, may it be a good one.


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Batya Medad blogs at Shiloh Musings.