Soon, we will gather at our home for erev Rosh Hashanah dinner, hosting a boisterous and happy houseful of family, and the friends who have become family.
Before we tuck into the matzah ball soup, even before we dip apple slices in honey, we will welcome the New Year with our own quirky ritual. One that you can make your own.
It’s the Nachas List.
Like many beloved rituals, we have done this for so long I honestly can’t remember how and when we began. Years ago my husband, Mike, came up with the idea, and it has been the centerpiece of erev Rosh Hashanah and the second seder ever since.
Twice a year our holidays commence with a reading of the Nachas List, a brief chronicle of the achievements and milestones of each child in each family over the last half year.
Nachas is a hard word to translate, but you know it when you feel it. A potent mix of pride and gratitude, it reminds you of how truly blessed you are to reach this moment.
We go family by family, with a few sentences for every child. No matter how young, there is a point of pride for each one. Something touching, sweet, or funny to share. Sure, we have had plenty of academic shout-outs over the years—this child was accepted to Princeton, that child graduated law school, and the like—but some of my favorites were these:
“Andrew was a star player this winter on his elementary school hockey team…and he still has all his teeth!”
“Sophie is finally sleeping through the night.”
There is a round of applause and cheers for each child, then on to the next. The list always concludes with a nod to the “Senior Class,” the grandparents and other relatives whose presence around our table is such a blessing.
The senior class doesn’t lack for milestones either: this one walked down the aisle at her grandson’s wedding; that one is still driving at night. All of them are “beating the actuaries.”
The Nachas List has never been about bragging, but rather about taking a moment to give all the children, infant to young adult, recognition and kavod (honor) for who they are at that moment in time.
Mike and I always compile the list together, drawing on what we know about each child and sometimes turning to the child’s parents if we are coming up short on “fresh nachas.” Mike’s ad libbing as he reads the list yields some of the biggest laughs.
I had a feeling we were on to something special when my niece’s Hebrew school teacher cornered me one day, saying, “What is this ‘Nachas List’ that your niece is so excited about? She says it is her favorite part of the holidays, and that she can’t wait to hear what Uncle Mike will say about her. I never heard of this before. What is she talking about??”
The Nachas List has now gone international, thanks to dear Israeli friends who spent every holiday with us for 10 years, and then returned to Israel. Guess what ritual they took back with them? Now even their extended families have adopted the Nachas List!
I invite you to make our ritual your own, adding something “new” and “sweet” to a Sweet New Year.