Rosh Hashanah. It’s a brand new year, a clean slate, a chance to make all the positive mommying-resolutions you can dream up. But even though it’s a holiday and everything feels festive, Rosh Hashanah can also feel very lonely. And long. Especially if you have small kids at home.
Oftentimes and for many different and personal reasons, moms of young children do not make it to temple on Rosh Hashanah—and for years, that was me. The truth is, I still don’t. And if we’re being really honest here, I’m OK with that.
Growing up, I enjoyed the communal aspects of the synagogue, but I’ve always found that praying alone is much more meaningful to me. And to ensure that I do get that time to connect with the true meaning of Rosh Hashanah—even during the years when there was a new baby or multiple children under the age of 2—I always made sure to plan ahead. I still do.
I know—and you know—that it’s really important to make the day meaningful for our kids, but it’s equally important to make it meaningful for the mommies, too, and this is where a small amount of prep can go a long way.
1. First things first: there’s safety in numbers.
For years, we invited the same two families over and we hosted both Rosh Hashanah mornings in our playroom. And then one of us moved away, and then a year later, we moved away. But if you can swing it and are lucky enough to have one or two other families with whom you are close enough to want to spend hours and you have kids that are similar ages, I say go for it. It might sound counter-intuitive, but the more kids running around, the easier it is to control. And having two or three moms together gives each mom time for a prayer break if she desires, so everyone wins.
2. Throw a Happy Birthday to the World Party!
Serve applesauce, apple chips, and apple juice. And cupcakes, but not apple cupcakes. Those don’t sound very good. But you know what does sound good? Chocolate. Chocolate cupcakes. With lollipops as candles because it’s not a party without a cupcake and a candle. Feel free to pick them up at the bakery; I won’t tell if you won’t. And be sure to sing happy birthday to the world. Bonus points for singing in Hebrew.
3. Conduct an Apple Taste Test
Be sure to have at least three colors or varieties of apples on hand. A selection of different types of honey is also nice, but that can get pricey, so a regular honey bear from Shoprite will do the trick nicely. Before Rosh Hashanah, make a quick chart on a poster or a large paper, listing the three apple types across the top and the names of everyone dipping their apples with you along the side of the poster. If you want to take it one step further, think about visiting a pick-your-own farm for some apples. (We really like Alstede Farms in Morris County. We’ve been there a bunch of times and it never disappoints.)
On Rosh Hashanah, it’s fun use red, yellow and green dot stickers to chart everyone’s favorites. And, afterward, if you laminate the poster, you can hang it in the sukkah. Look at you, mama! You’re already ahead of the sukkah decorating game!
4. Go Big or Go Home: Your Holiday Table
I understand, you’re a mom and you’re tired. It’s so easy to set the table with pretty plastic plates and cups and be done. I do that too, because the thought of washing all those dishes after a big meal is almost too much for me to even contemplate. We stand proud in solidarity with our fancy disposable tableware, but before Rosh Hashanah, we do put in some table-setting effort. We color and cut apple-shaped place cards out of apple-colored cardstock and we make a few Rosh Hashanah themed placemats that we laminate. Pulling out the placemats we’ve made in years past and using those as well also makes the whole experience nostalgic and extra sweet.
5. Set Up a Rosh Hashanah Honey Dish Museum
We have, thank God, four kids. Four kids, multiplied by a minimum of three years of preschool each, and then multiplied again by at least one honey dish per kid per year? That’s a lot of honey dishes. Last year, we won the jackpot with all four kids bringing one home from Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy. And I’ve saved them all, wrapped lovingly in tissue paper and packed away like ornaments. OK, that’s not really true. But they do get tossed in a sticky-ish bin labeled Rosh Hashanah. And every year, my husband drags that bin out of the basement so we can set up shop. The kids love looking back at their projects. And for me, seeing how far they’ve come may or may not bring a small tear to my eye.
6. Set Up a Rosh Hashanah Library
We have a number of Rosh Hashanah themed children’s books (I’m looking at you, PJ Library!), including “Sammy Spider’s First Rosh Hashanah,” “Apple Days,” and “All About Rosh Hashanah.” I always try to grab a few more from the library, and we sit and read stories on Rosh Hashanah morning. Even the older kids like to listen to these stories. My 7-year-old says it reminds her of her childhood.
See how easy it can be?
And if all else fails, pull out my last trick. One year, I convinced my young kids that one of the main mitzvot of Rosh Hashanah was taking a nap. And they did. We all did. And napping always makes everything better.