A little girl in a shopping cart at a grocery store in front of produce


How My Daughter And I Do Rosh Hashanah On A Budget

Sep 7, 2018

The Jewish high holidays are early this year. Rosh Hashanah begins the evening of September 9th, and this is information I found daunting upon learning it.

I have a small household — there are two of us, my seven-year-old and I — and I don’t belong to a synagogue, I don’t have in-town family that I spend time with and I’m currently freelancing between jobs. The high holidays tend to be focused on family gatherings: feasting together to welcome the new year, feasting together to break the Yom Kippur fast, luncheons after services — a lot of food, and a lot of gathering.

We love eating, but there’s only so much brisket and gefilte fish that makes sense for the two of us financially, prep time-wise or otherwise. But I do want to mark the occasion for my kid in some way. Here are some of the ways I’ve come up with to do the Jewish high holidays on a budget.

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Blow Your Own Horn

This is a literal instruction, not a figure of speech. Assuming you don’t have a ram’s horn hanging around, you can make your own shofar in a variety of ways. A quick Google search will provide a variety of craft ideas for your kids, many using not much more than toilet paper rolls. A loot bag-style noisemaker will do in a pinch. The shofar has a bunch of interpretations — I like the idea of it as a wake-up call to start (or keep) working for positive change. Sound your shofars both mornings of Rosh Hashanah.

Eat Apples And Honey

Apples and honey aren’t an everyday treat but are hard to go wrong with and are all-the-way Rosh Hashanah in my opinion. If you’re a baker, an apple cake is a holiday favourite (and if you like to bake with your kid, even better). But apple slices dipped in a dish of honey are easy and satisfying, symbolizing a wish for a sweet and fruitful year.

Eat A New Fruit

There’s a Rosh Hashanah custom of eating a new fruit on the second day of the holiday. The “rule” behind it is that it’s a fruit that hasn’t been eaten since it was last in season, the year before. For parents and kids, it can make for an activity of seeking out something new from the grocery store and trying it together to mark the occasion. Pomegranates have a dual meaning, as the saying is that we wish to have merits as plentiful as the seeds in one of these. Some say the seeds are about the number of possibilities ahead for the new year. So, an extra seedy fruit may be part of the produce-section adventure.

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Cast Away

There’s a ritual called tashlich, which means “to cast.” The idea here is about casting away wrongdoings and starting new. It takes place on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and traditionally involves throwing breadcrumbs into a moving body of water. Confession: I used to do a version of this on my own that involved tossing tiny pieces of paper with things I was sorry for on them into a river or canal, depending on where I was living. I don’t think this is the most environmentally friendly. But there are other ways to try it: use bird seed and have your kids think about something they wish had gone differently (I prefer this to the idea of wrongdoing myself), try breadcrumbs in a bathtub when it’s being drained or create your own version. It's a nice time for reflection, and involving nature a bit, if possible.

There are a few more specific ideas (there are always more). Plan a holiday meal — no need for anything fancy, just something to set the meal apart from others. Make cards for friends and neighbours, teachers, daycare workers — a Shana Tova greeting, especially if you explain it, should be met with warmth (and making a stamp out of an apple never gets old). Try lighting candles, or buying or making a round challah if that’s an option available to you. For a number of years, pre-parenthood, I’d book a fire pit in one of our city parks and bring together my mostly non-Jewish friends and bring some apples and honey to share. The weather usually made for a nice evening bonfire, and it became a tradition my friends and I looked forward to, even though it didn’t have much traditional going for it. I like to think I do the best I can with the resources I have.

Article Author Tara-Michelle Ziniuk
Tara-Michelle Ziniuk

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is a writer and editor based in Toronto. She’s a queer single mom to a 7.5-year-old. She’s overshared about her daughter for Today’s Parent, Bunch Family, Baby Post and various other print and digital publications. She’s also a poet (her kid says “of sad books”) and book reviewer (for Publisher’s Weekly, The Canadian Children’s Book News and more). You can find her on Twitter @therealrealtmz.

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