Why We Don't Have School Every Day in September

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They come every year. Those days that the kids don't have school, when school has only just started! What are these mysterious days? These holidays that seemingly few people celebrate? 


Friends, I'm talking about the Jewish holidays Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, also known as the High Holy Days. Our family celebrates these holidays, and several friends have asked me what we do to mark the holidays. They know Rosh Hashanah has something to do with apples and honey, and I'm gonna break it down for you here! 


Rosh Hashanah 101


The name literally means "head of the year" in Hebrew. "Rosh" is "head," and "ha shanah" is "the year." The Jewish calendar is made of 12 months, and the month that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fall in called Tishrei. There is a long explanation of how the Jewish calendar calculates years, and wikipedia can help you with that if you're curious, but for simplicity's sake, I'll just let you know that the year is 5778 in the Jewish calendar. 


The gist of the holidays is that we are called to examine our actions from the past year and to reflect on our actions. It's also a time to think about those who are less fortunate, and to think of how we can give tzedakah, {t's da kah} or help to others. 

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What's the Deal with that Horn?

The shofar is the ram's horn that the rabbi blows 100 times to signal the beginning of the new year. It's also a call to think of those times in the last year that we could have been more patient, caring, fair, etc. 


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Traditional Foods

Spoiler alert: Jewish holidays have everything to do with food, as in most traditions around the world. The way my family celebrates is to have dinner together and eat the traditional foods like brisket, matzoh ball soup, kugel, tzimmes and a round challah.

Kugel is a sweet noodle casserole dish that has lots of creamy, sweet goodness like cream cheese, cottage cheese, sugar, jam and butter. It also has raisins to symbolize a sweet year. Here's an incredible kugel recipe for the one we made and that my family loved! It was such an easy recipe because you don't have to measure much! You use a whole stick of butter, a whole block of cream cheese and a whole container of cottage cheese! Plus, we made it gluten-free!

Here's our matzoh ball soup recipe, too! 

Tzimmes is a sweet fruity side dish with apricots or plums, carrots, sweet potatoes and honey, orange juice, brown sugar and cinnamon.  

Are you getting the idea that the Rosh Hashanah foods are sweet and round? 

My cousin brought my mom this beautiful tray from Israel!

My cousin brought my mom this beautiful tray from Israel!


My cousin brought my mom this beautiful tray from Israel!

Apples and Honey

Apples and honey are kind of the iconic foods, and the simple answer is that we eat apples dipped in honey to symbolize our desire to have a sweet year. The apples are a fruit typically harvested in this season, but also, the shape of the apples (round) symbolize and celebrate the cycle of life and our appreciation of the fruit of the earth.


Other Traditions

Many families go to temple during the 2-day holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and the temples are crowded during these High Holiday Day religious services. The songs and prayers are beautiful and I fondly remember the songs from when we went to services when I was a child, especially when we went to the evening services. Our temple had an organist and a choir and the songs' melodies were so dramatic.


There's a tradition called tashlich in which people go to a lake or other body of water and throw pieces of bread to symbolize ridding themselves of the sins from the last year.   


So, there we are...a bit of insight to why these days in September (occasionally October) are days off from school, and what Jewish people are doing to celebrate these days!

Are there other questions you have that I didn't answer? Which recipe will you try first?