Remember Y2K? It was the New Year’s Eve of the millennium, which happened to coincide with Shabbat. My high school friends and I had a Shabbat dinner, which went on for hours, almost until it was time to “secretly” watch the ball drop. None of us typically watched TV in our homes on Shabbat, but we decided to keep an old TV on in my friend’s basement to watch New Year’s Eve live. There was much trepidation about what exactly would happen with Y2K. Fortunately, the ball dropped as usual and the calendar went from 1999 to 2000 without a glitch.
With New Year’s Eve falling on a Friday night once again this year (there’s no Y2K — but this time we got a pandemic?), I’ve been thinking a lot about how families can create unique Shabbat and New Year’s Eve memories. The holiday is already challenging to celebrate with younger kids because of its late hour. I’ve found that pushing bedtime for my kids can wreak havoc on the next day — or that evening itself.
Whether you typically observe Shabbat or just want to make this NYE a touch more special, here are eight family-friendly — and early — activities which you can do to bring the spirit of Shabbat into your New Year’s Eve celebrations:
1. Family Photo Year-in-Review
Shabbat is a built-in time in our week to slow down and spend time with family. What better a way to welcome in 2022 than to reflect upon all of the special moments you shared as a family in 2021?
If you have time in advance (i.e. now), send 20 to 30 photos from your past year to a printer, be it CVS Photo or photo apps like Shutterfly. Before or after your Shabbat dinner, place each of the photos out on a carpet or table face down. Invite different family members to flip over the photos and share highlights of what they remember connected to the activity in the photo.
Following the activity, your kids may want to hang up the photos or make their own photo books, so it might be helpful to have tape, construction paper, glue sticks and a stapler around as well.
If you don’t have time to print a few photos in advance, you can use your iPhone or iPad to go through photos you have added to “favorites” this year and even project them onto a larger TV screen.
Materials: a smartphone, a photo printing app (remember to pick them up before New Year’s Eve!), and craft supplies.
2. 2021 Tzedakah Sort
Many families have the tradition of putting money into the tzedakah box before Shabbat. Whether your tzedakah box is half full like ours (since we haven’t been using that much change these days!) or totally full, take a few moments of the Friday afternoon of New Year’s Eve as an opportunity to sort and count your tzedakah money from 2021. My kids could spend hours identifying and sorting coins, so if you don’t get to the counting part, no worries!
As a family, decide where you would like to send this tzedakah money. With our family, we find that two or three options usually work best. For example, you could donate the tzedakah money to an organization related to helping animals, helping feed other people, helping the environment or helping people to feel better.
Materials: tzedakah box with coins in it and small bowls for sorting.
3. Countdown Clock
For those of us more craft-inclined, you can design a Jewish-themed New Year’s Eve countdown clock with items you likely already have in your home (with the exception of a paper fastener).
Draw or paint numbers around a paper plate to form a clock. I painted the numbers with glitter glue, which was daring on my part, as I’m not a big glitter fan. Fasten arrows made of craft foam to the center of the clock with a paper fastener (twist ties could work too). Decorate the clock’s border with more glitter glue or sparkly pipe cleaners (I went with pipe cleaners as I had reached my glitter maximum). Then, add a Jewish star (cut out from foam) to the top and connect it to the clock with a popsicle stick. For final touches, paint “2022” on the Jewish star. For a full Jewish countdown clock tutorial, click here.
Using this clock, you can “countdown” to both the start of Shabbat (which begins in the 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. range for much of North America that week) and to midnight — even if “time” flies a bit quicker in the later hours! If your family doesn’t usually light Shabbat candles on Fridays, since New Year’s Eve is a relatively quieter day, this might be a fun ritual to try out to bring more structure — and peace — to your day.
Materials: paper plate, permanent marker or glitter glue, paper fastener or twist tie, craft foam, pipe cleaners, a popsicle stick and scotch tape.
4. A Bubbly Kiddush
Start your New Year’s Eve with a kid-friendly l’chaim using plastic champagne flutes for kiddush! You can also stock up on some sparkling grape juice to go for the bubbly feel (or mix grape juice and seltzer for a similar effect).
Last year, when we were living with my parents during the earlier part of the pandemic, my mother ordered sparkly plastic champagne flutes for my kids for the Shabbat that coincided with New Year’s Day. These champagne flutes became my kids’ go-to kiddush cups for the rest of our time there – they are easy to clean and there is no polishing required! Perhaps you too will carry this New Year’s kiddush eve tradition well into 2022.
Materials: plastic champagne flutes, grape juice (sparkling preferred) and beverages for the grown-ups.
5. Confetti Challah
While we might not be able to experience hordes of confetti fluttering down from Times Square on New Year’s Eve — or want to introduce confetti to our dining areas — you can make (and eat!) your own “confetti” challah.
If you buy frozen challah like I do, before you put it into the oven, brush egg yolk over the challah and then sprinkle it with sprinkles.
If you’re inclined to make your own challah dough from scratch, try out Shannon Sarna’s amazing funfetti challah recipe. And, if you are super inspired, you can shape the numbers 2022 out of your challah dough. B’teiavon — enjoy your challah!
Materials: ready to bake frozen challah, or ingredients for making challah dough, and sprinkles.
6. Dress Up or Dress Down
Make your Shabbat dinner on New Year’s Eve even more special by encouraging your kids to either dress up or dress down. Your family can wear “Shabbat attire” (special, fancier clothes) or decide to all wear pajamas, in order to make your dinner even more special.
You can also take this opportunity to buy new pajamas for the occasion, which your kids will associate with first having worn on New Year’s Eve. In Hebrew we say “titchadesh,” which means “wear new clothes in good health!”
Materials: Shabbat clothes or (new) pajamas.
7. Syrup at the Shabbat Dinner Table
In addition to challah and grape juice, add some syrups to your Shabbat dinner table, so you can dip foods into them for a sweet new year, like we do with honey on Rosh Hashanah! Your family can dip challah slices, peppers or pretzels into chocolate, maple or any other syrups you have at home. Shanah tovah u’metukah – may it be a sweet 2022!
Materials required: syrups and any of your favorite foods to dip into them.
8. Countdown to Midnight
Watch a countdown together as a family – early! For families who don’t want TV on Shabbat, watch something right before candle lighting to get into the New Year’s Eve mood. There will be a number of countdown options on Netflix Kids (available closer to New Year’s Eve) or you can Google “New Year’s Eve countdowns for kids.”
Materials: Google or your parents’ Netflix account (since who is really on their own plan?)
Here’s to 2022 being even more next-to-normal than 2021. Shabbat Shalom and Happy New Year!