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One of the biggest challenges for me as an interfaith spouse and parent has been learning to think ahead about holidays that arenâ€™t part of my own internalÂ calendar. Iâ€™m used to many things that return with fallâ€™s cooler temperatures: school schedules, extra-curricular activities, busy lives. Pumpkins, squash, and apples appear at stores and farmersâ€™ markets, and, as a lover of sweater-weather, I look forward to cooler temperatures.
What Iâ€™m not used to anticipating is a major holiday season right at this major turning point in the year. This forgetfulness remains regrettably true even after more than a decade of having an interfaith partner. I still forget that he might take a day off on Rosh Hashanah (and Iâ€™m still surprised when he, despite being Jewish from birth, forgets to think ahead about it, too).
Eventually, I get used to the rhythm of fall. School starts, schedules become chaotic, but by the time Halloween and Thanksgiving roll around, the â€śnewâ€ť schedule is old-hat, and Iâ€™m good and ready to begin planning for the craziness of December. Itâ€™s not easy, but Iâ€™m used to the idea of thinking about a Thanksgiving menu or winter holiday shopping on top of all the regular chaos.
The New Year, thoughâ€”the Jewish New Yearâ€”surprises me every time. Itâ€™s getting better. Iâ€™m learning to think ahead.Â I know, for example, that weâ€™ll have time this Sunday to watch the football game and bake a round loaf of challah in the process.
My first daughter was born around the time of Rosh Hashanah. That year, I ate apples and honey while still in the recovery room.Â Now that sheâ€™s turning six, she knows that the return of fall means not just school starting again, but also her birthday, which comes with cakeâ€”and apples and honey. Sheâ€™s already planning to bring apples and honey in to share with her classmates, so perhaps planning ahead for Rosh Hashanah and the High Holidays wonâ€™t be such a jolt to her internal calendar as it remains for mine.
Perhaps itâ€™s the doubleÂ whammy of the new school year and a childâ€™s birthday to plan (often baking a cake at home, as well as healthier treats for her classmates at school, not to mention planning a party) that makes fitting in a major holiday season that much more challenging to remember, to plan for.
Somehow, we find a way to get it done. It feels haphazard, but somehow, our daughter has a party, has her cake, has her treats for her friendsâ€”both for Rosh Hashanah and her birthday. We look for, and usually choose, child-friendly Rosh Hashanah services to attend. We remember to check our stock of apples and honey. My spouse forgets which apple-and-honey cake heâ€™s baked in the past, so he looks through cookbooks and websites, trying to choose one, but eventually he does, and the cake is delicious, sweet, subtly spiced, another taste of fall.
Iâ€™m ready for fall, for a birthday, for Rosh Hashanahâ€”but Iâ€™m still not sure what weâ€™ll do for Yom Kippur this year. By the time the Day of Atonement rolls around 10 days later, Iâ€™m sure weâ€™ll have that figured out, as well.
Has anyone else had this trouble gearing up for the holidays because they did not grow up with them, or just because they always seem to occur before we’ve come out of our summer haze?