There are plenty of reasons why you might not be able to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with your family this year. Some people might be sad about skipping the familial celebration, and some might be relieved. However you feel, if you aren’t able to spend Rosh Hashanah with your family this year but still want to celebrate with friends, we’ve got you covered.
Celebrating Rosh Hashanah with friends can be fun, meaningful and easy. Here are some of our suggestions about how to do it this year.
Introduce Your Friends to Your Family’s Traditions
If your family always celebrates Rosh Hashanah in a specific way, it can be very special to continue those traditions with your friends. Reach out to your parents, siblings or whoever was in charge of your family Rosh Hashanah celebrations and go over what celebrating the holiday means to all of you. Do you host a big meal with the same menu every year? Do you create your own prayers for the new year? Taking something familiar and sharing it with your friends can make old traditions feel new, and can feel really intimate.
Whether they’re also Jewish or not, your friends will undoubtedly appreciate learning more about how you meaningfully celebrate a holiday that is important to you and your religion or culture — and if they are Jewish, they may have some of their own traditions to contribute.
Bring All Your Traditions to the Table
Which brings us to our next option: bring all your traditions to the table. One of the exciting parts of growing up and entering the world outside of your own nuclear family bubble is learning all the different ways a person can be.
If you are going to be celebrating with Jewish friends, find a way to incorporate all of your traditions at your table. If someone always went hiking with their family as a way to ring in the Jewish New Year, perhaps that person can lead a hike for your friend group. If someone else’s grandma always made the same classic tahdig, maybe it’s time for that friend to learn the recipe. Feel free to incorporate silly traditions, too — maybe one friend’s family always celebrated on the second night of Rosh Hashanah instead of the first to highlight how everyone in the family is always late (yes this is a true story, one of my friends does this with her family). Would it be cute for you and your friends to do that too?
If you’re celebrating with non-Jewish friends, you can also ask them to bring traditions to your Rosh Hashanah celebration. Though they may not have celebrated the Jewish New Year before, they likely have their own familial traditions for meaningful holidays or the secular new year. Maybe they want to share some of those.
Lean Into the Seasonality of Rosh Hashanah
If your family was not particularly religious or observant when you were growing up, or if you personally do not want to celebrate that way, you can always lean into the seasonal element of Rosh Hashanah instead.
In many parts of the United States, Rosh Hashanah falls at peak apple-picking season. If you live elsewhere, I bet there are other seasonal fruits that capture the spirit of a sweet new year. Judaism is a religion that values agriculture and the harvest calendar, so even if you want nothing to do with synagogue or elaborate meals, there are still built-in small ways to pay homage to the Jewish New Year with your friends simply by being alive and partaking in seasonal activities.
Try Something Brand New
There’s nothing like a new year to get behind trying something brand new. Gather your friends in advance of the holiday and brainstorm some things you’ve never done to celebrate Rosh Hashanah before. Maybe it’s something we already mentioned — hiking, apple picking, baking a specific recipe — or maybe it’s something so imaginative I didn’t even include it in this guide! It can be anchored to the holiday, like my examples, or it can be something completely new to all of you that you just happen to try out in honor of the new year.
Plan For Your Future Together
There’s an essay I love by writer and activist Dean Spade where he writes that his goal is to “treat the people I date more like I treat my friends — to be respectful and thoughtful and have boundaries and reasonable expectations — and to try to treat my friends more like my dates — to give them special attention, honor my commitments to them, be consistent, and invest deeply in our futures together.” I think about this essay all the time, because one of my favorite parts of growing up is learning that our friends can be just as important as our family (and as our dates), that friendship is its own magical constellation of love, that friendship can be the foundation for a lifetime.
With that in mind, Rosh Hashanah is a perfect time to plan for your future with your friends. When you’re not related to someone by blood, you have to make a bigger effort to create a life with them. Carve out some time this new year to vision board for the future with your friends. Dream up goals you have, both individually and together, and think about realistic moves you can make to turn your fantasies into reality. Think about trips you might want to take together and future Jewish holidays you’d like to celebrate. Brainstorm anything you want — you and your friends are in charge of your destiny together and now is the time to plan it!
Let Someone Else Take the Lead
Or maybe… this all sounds super overwhelming and you’re like, absolutely not, I am not the Head Balabusta In Charge in my friend group, I shall not be taking this on! That’s totally fine. The nice thing about celebrating the Jewish holidays with friends instead of family is it can often be way more chill. So sit back, let someone else take the lead and celebrate in whatever way may come. But maybe go ahead and text this article to the friend who is most likely to take on the planning in your group — we bet they’ll appreciate it.