Simple Preparations for Rosh Hashanah


I am passionate about renewing the festivals that are important to us. We celebrate them in a way that is authentic to our unique family values and culture. I have noticed that there are many guides and articles about how Waldorf-inspired families celebrate Christian and/or Pagan festivals but very few about how others mindfully celebrate their family’s festivals and I want to change that.

It is my hope that this journal entry and many more to come will inspire others. People with similar belief systems to renew, recreate and celebrate this festival in their own way. I also believe it is vital that those who don’t share the same spiritual heritage acknowledge and witness the beauty and goodness in others’ traditions. There is so much to learn and enjoy about our diversity.

What is Rosh Hashanah?

Simply put, Rosh Hashanah celebrates the Jewish New Year.  It is the first day of the Jewish High Holidays and falls in September or October, depending on the year. Rosh Hashanah is a two-day celebration. It begins on the first day of Tishrei (the first month of the Jewish civil year). Rosh Hashanah traditionally begins with the sounding the shofar (a hollowed-out ram’s horn). Many families attend synagogue services on this day, recite special liturgy about “teshuva” or repentance for sins. Festive meals are enjoyed with family including symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey (evoking a sweet new year), round braided challah bread (to symbolize the cyclical nature of the year) and pomegranate (symbolizing a fruitful new year).

The rest of this Journal entry is in interview style. Jeanine Levine who writes at A Brooklyn Homeschool was generous enough to share how she and her family celebrate Rosh Hashanah together in New York City each year. Thank you Jeanine.

What does Rosh Hashanah symbolize and mean to you and your family

When I think of Rosh Hashanah, the first thing I think of is family.  Outside of Israel, Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah for for 2 days, many abstaining from work for those days.  In NYC, where we live, schools are closed.  For us this means we travel to my husband’s parents house.  His grandmothers join us there as well as his brothers.  Aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors will join us for parts of these days.  We spend two full days together, chatting and catching up, laughing, cooking, and of course, eating.  My in-laws are wonderful hosts and go above and beyond to make sure that everyone is comfortable, happy and well fed.”

Can you draw a parallel between this festival and the natural world around us? Is there a connection between what is happening seasonally and what this festival symbolizes?

On Rosh Hashanah it is customary for Jews to eat apples dipped in honey to bring about a sweet new year.  Like many families, we go apple picking every September, so this easily ties into the special holiday food and tradition.

What beliefs/virtues/values do you hope to bring to light by honouring this tradition?

In the Jewish religion, Jews are called upon to reflect on their lives over the past year at Rosh Hashanah.  As a family, we believe setting aside time for individual reflection, meditations and planning for a better future is an important practice whether you are religious or not. If you attend a Rosh Hashanah service in a synagogue, you will hear a member of the congregation blow the shofar, or ram’s horn.  One thing that the shofar signals is that you are called to wake up and begin your personal reflection.

How do you set the scene for Rosh Hashanah? Is there anything you do in advance before the first day to mark or model that this time is coming? (Decor? Creating a small scene on a table?)

Each year we will learn one or two Rosh Hashanah songs.  I will practice the traditional greeting with my children, “Shana Tovah,” so they are comfortable greeting family and friends during the holiday.  We always hang a few apple decorations: a felted apple garland and an apple dish towel my son made when he was 2.  Also, we take time to create handmade cards and enjoy a walk to the post office to mail them to our family and friends.  We love making apple cinnamon play-doh and each year we prepare a simple craft to give to family members on the holiday. 

In the past we have made apple shaped coasters and dish-towels decorated with apple prints.  Last year we sewed buttons to burlap to create apple trees and apples.  These turned out beautifully and my children were so proud of their creations.  I know we will treasure all of these crafts for years to come and my children love gifting them to their family members.

We also buy new clothes for the holiday and talk about getting dressed up and why we choose to do that on important holidays.  Normally, my children have full control of their clothing choices and I want to be sure they are prepared to dress up in something they might not normally wear (particularly a suit for my son).  Talking about it beforehand helps proactively avoid any disagreement on the morning of the holiday.  I learned this lesson the hard way and I doubt many in our family will forget the tears and screams from a few years ago of “NO FANCY CLOTHES!”  At least I won’t!

How do you prepare the day before Rosh Hashanah? (Food? Decor? Rituals?)

Jewish holidays begin at sundown.  We always light candles and then partake in a festive meal at sundown on Rosh Hashanah.  This will be the first time we eat apples dipped in honey and many other traditional Jewish dishes that my mother-in-law prepares such as noodle kugel, brisket, turkey and a hearty vegetable soup. It is very comforting to eat the same foods on this holiday each year. Sadly, since we live in NYC our holiday always begins with quite a bit of traffic as we travel to visit family.  I will usually chose a new audio book for everyone to enjoy on what can be quite a long drive!

How are children involved during Rosh Hashanah? What do they look forward to the most?

My children look forward to going to their grandparents house to spend a lot of time with their family.  They love all of the attention and the time they have to play outside.  They like to hear the shofar in the synagogue and love to dip apples in honey!

Anything else you would like to share about celebrating Rosh Hashanah with your young children?

I hope my children will always remember that Rosh Hashanah is a time for coming together and making time to make deep connections with family.  I hope they will connect Rosh Hashanah with the coming of fall and the sights and smells of the new season.

Simple Preparations for Rosh Hashana was shared by Jeanine, homeschooling mom to Ethan (5.5 years old) and Lillian (4 years old). You can find her at or on Instagram @abrooklynhomeschool

Meagan Wilson is a parent educator and author of the now-retired seasonal series of Whole Family Rhythms. After finishing a BA, she went on to complete her Foundations in Steiner Education and Anthroposophy at Sydney Steiner College, as well as her Waldorf Early Childhood Certification at the Rudolf Steiner Centre in Toronto. She has received her certification as a Simplicity Parenting Family Life Coach and has supported hundreds of parents to create a strong family rhythm unique to their own values and culture. She has four young children. Meagan provides resources, support and information to parents who are looking for a bridge to cross between their unique family life and their children’s (often but not always) Waldorf schools.

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