The Jewish new year or ראש השנה (Rosh H'Shanah) occurs at some point in the year that nobody can remember, due to the fact that the Jewish calendar follows the lunar cycle. Regardless, most proper Jews or Jew well-wishers take time out of their busy non-lunar schedules to celebrate the Jewish new year!
Traditionally, from what I understand, we eat challah bread, apples, and honey -- signifying a sweet and fruitful new year. That makes a lot more sense to me than drinking champagne and kissing strangers as a giant, glittering ball ascends a pole. Similarly, Rosh H'Shanah is a day of rest. I don't know about anyone else, but I certainly haven't worked more than 12 hours in two months, so you could say I've been pre-gaming for Rosh H'Shanah ever since I retired from the JET Programme. I'm just that good of a Jew. *Cough*.
So, apple slice in hand, I rang in the year 5770 (take that, 2009!) with my Zaydeh, Uncle Oren, Aunt Michele, and many many family friends. We rallied at the swanky retirement condo of Zaydeh's BFF, Mim. They've been especially close since Bubbeh died because Mim's husband died about four years ago on Christmas. She's an extremely quick-witted woman in her late 80's or early 90's with a tinge of a British accent and sparkly brown eyes. She had invited the Sreebny Clan™ along with her two sons, her granddaughter and her granddaughter's boyfriend. We had some wine up in her "crib", which is a lavish, well-decorated space that definitely has the feel of "Grandma Chic" to it. We dined in a dining room stuffed with well-to-do old folks and toasted to the new year with wine (Maneschevitz present, but not well-used).
Mim even baked us a delicious honey cake, which nobody could get enough of, but nobody could eat enough of either.
I've grown up "somewhat Jewish" in that my Zaydeh and Bubbeh have always celebrated Jewish traditions and utilized funny Yiddish words and fed me matzah and gefilte fish for as long as I can remember. At home we did the whole Channukah/hooray for dreidels/let's light a candle or eight sort of thing... but I never went to a synagogue as a kid or an adult. My mother brought me and my sister to her Methodist church for awhile growing up, but we moved so much that we never stuck with a church, much less a specific organized religion.
Now, in my adulthood, I feel like I want to find some sort of community to be a part of. I've never been a believer in organized religion, but I've always had a strong sense of faith in people and in God or whoever might be watching over (terrifying Japanese ghosts anyone?) So, maybe I'll start looking around at Unitarian churches, which I hear are the vanilla of houses of God.
Religious affiliations and confusions aside, it's nice to be around people like Zaydeh and Mim who know how to properly celebrate Jewish holidays once in awhile. It's nice to get a sense of who I am and where I come from with extended family for a change, too!