Rosh Hashanah is one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar (the reason this holiday, along with Yom Kippur, are called the High Holidays or High Holy Days). Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year (literally meaning “head of the year”). Creating a meaningful Rosh Hashanah with children is doable and fun!
A Brief Background about Rosh Hashanah
The holiday of Rosh Hashanah celebrates the completion of another year as we enter into a new year. It is also a time when we think about everything we did during the year and how we may want to be better in the coming year. Rosh Hashanah begins the Ten Days of Repentance that lead to Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). During this time, Jewish people all over the world ask forgiveness for any wrongdoings over the previous year.
Rosh Hashanah is marked by a few special symbols. The first set of symbols associated with the holiday are apples and honey. They represent the hope to have a “sweet New Year.” Another major symbol of the holiday is a shofar (a ram’s horn). The shofar is blown during services on Rosh Hashanah and to end Yom Kippur. A third symbol of the holiday is a round challah instead of the straight challah that’s eaten the rest of the year. Forming the challah into a round shape symbolizes the cyclical nature of the year.
3 Ideas to Celebrate Rosh Hashanah with Children
1. Get Crafty for Rosh Hashanah
Arts and crafts projects are a wonderful way to get into the holiday spirit at home. They can serve both as an activity that inspires discussion and education around the holiday and then they can be used to create a holiday atmosphere in the house.
You don’t need fancy materials to make a great Rosh Hashanah project. A very easy project is making apple stamps. As mentioned earlier, apples are an important symbol of the holiday, which provides a nice opportunity for a little education about the holiday as you work. All you need to do is cut an apple in half. Then pour small bowls of different color paint. The kids can use the apple halves as stamps in the various colors to make a fun design on paper.
Sticking with teaching symbolism, making a paper chain (connecting both sides so it forms a circle) is a great way to teach about the cyclical nature of the holiday as you craft. Everyone can write their hopes for the new year and/or things they are sorry about from the previous year on each link of the chain.
2. Bake & Eat It Up
Food is very important in Judaism. It can be symbolic and create a lasting connection to holidays. Baking with children provides an opportunity to create memories and traditions that they will associate with the holiday for the rest of their lives. And as an added bonus, it gives everyone something yummy to enjoy for the celebration.
Sticking with the theme of apples and honey, make it an extra sweet year with delicious desserts featuring those ingredients. Honey cake is a traditional Rosh Hashanah treat. Looking for something fun to make with kids? Try these bite-size apple pies.
3. Take It Outside
Apple picking is a fun fall activity and stays within the theme of the holiday. If anyone doesn’t want to spend the day at services, heading to an orchard could provide an alternate meaningful Rosh Hashanah experience.
There is also a traditional Jewish ceremony that brings participants into the great outdoors. Tashlich, which translates to cast away, is an opportunity to symbolically cast away sins into a moving body of water. The sins are often in the form of bread crumbs, making it an easy and powerful experience for children and adults of all ages.
More Ideas and Explanation
For more information and inspiration check out these resources:
- A PJ Library Family Guide’s High Holidays
- Gateways High Holiday Resources (specializes in diverse learning needs)
I have to add a huge thank you to my daughter, Hannah, who helped come up with ideas for this article. I wish you all a Shanah Tova U’Metukah—a good and sweet year. May this year be filled with health, happiness, and peace for everyone.