Every fall, the air gets cooler, the kids go back to school, and Rosh Hashanah rolls around. The holiday itself celebrates the Jewish new year, but also deals with some more serious topics, like renewal, forgiveness, and thinking hard about how to be a better person in the next year. There are many ways to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, from huge family dinners to going to services at synagogue to eating apples and honey.
But what if you and your family want to do something different this year? We know that not everyone celebrates in the same way, so we’ve come up with a list of our favorite Rosh Hashanah-y activities that are great to do with young kids. Try one out, and if all goes well, you could have a new family tradition on your hands.
1. Apple picking
It’s tradition to eat apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah to symbolize a sweet new year. Rather than just picking up apples at the grocery store, take the kids to the nearest pick-your-own apple orchard and let them see where apples really come from. When you bring home bushels of apples, try these recipes for a new take on Rosh Hashanah’s traditional apples and honey. Or use a few apples to make apple-print tablecloths or apple-print placemats for your Rosh Hashanah dinner. Or even better, turn an apple into a honey bowl. Before you know it, apple picking and apple crafting will become an annual tradition–complete with many a great photo op, of course!
2. Honey tasting
As it turns out, there are lots of different kinds of honey out there. Because bees suck nectar from all types of flowers, the honey can have a very different taste. Assemble your family for a taste test. Go to the local farmer’s market and buy two or three different kinds of honey. (Not only are you supporting local agriculture, but you’re also showing your kids where food comes from.) At home, arrange a smorgasbord of foods to dip into the various kinds of honey—challah, apples, pretzels, bananas, etc. Which honey goes best with which foods? When you find your favorites, you can put them out at your Rosh Hashanah table. (Check with your pediatrician, but generally honey is not recommended for children under the age of 1.)
3. New Year’s Cards
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, and it’s a great time to send cards to friends and family. Your kids can write about their summer adventures, their new teacher at school, or even your trip to go apple picking! We love making apple-print new year’s cards–just cut or fold construction paper to the size of your choice, and follow these steps to do apple prints. Your friends and family will love the personalized touch that the homemade apple prints bring to their cards.
On Rosh Hashanah, it’s traditional to make a round challah bread instead of the normal braided shape eaten throughout the rest of the year. Why round? Because the year is a circle,.If you’ve never made challah before, it’s like many other bread recipes–you get to punch and knead the dough. Which is a great way to get out all of your frustrations before the new year begins! And kids love playing with dough too–try breaking off a little bit and letting your kids make their own challah shapes
5. Nature Walk
Fall is a great time to be outdoors and appreciate the beauty of nature. Take advantage of the temperate weather and head to the nearest forest, reservation, or park. Walk slowly with your kids, picking out animals, insects, flowers, plants, and trees. Have your kids find their favorite rocks, plants, trees, flowers, or insects along the way. Talk to them about the cycle of the year and the seasons. It’ll keep them engaged and help your simple walk feel like an adventure.
If you’re looking for even more ways to celebrate the Jewish new year, try new recipes for a modern take on traditional apples and honey or make your own apples and honey plate.
Amy Deutsch is a contributing writer to Kveller and Kiddish magazine.