Friendsgiving: The Story of a Minimalist Rosh Hashanah Dinner, Circa 5777


This year, I decided to try something new for Rosh Hashanah.

Well, I didn’t really decide — since my parents were gone during Rosh Hashanah and my sister is away at school, spending the holiday together as we usually do wasn’t really an option.

Back in college (which wasn’t really that long ago), my parents brought up extra Rosh Hashanah food one weekend after the holiday when they came to visit me. Included was a container of my mom’s famous sweet and sour meatballs, as well as some sweet kugel and spinach kugel.

My roommates, who included one other Jewish girl out of the five I lived with, were intrigued and tried some. Immediately, they loved it.

The Jewish food made such an impression that pretty much every year after that, my mom would bring up extra kugels and meatballs, and I would hold an impromptu Rosh Hashanah dinner. There was no gefilte fish or matzah ball soup because we did the bare minimum.

Last year, during my first Rosh Hashanah home in four years, two of my former roommates (one of whom still lives with me) came over and had holiday dinner with my family. This was so much better than our makeshift attempt at school.

So this year, I took it on myself. Since my parents were away, I decided to make it a friends thing, like how you do Friendsgiving for Thanksgiving, except for Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Giving? Frosh Hashanah?

But I wanted to go deeper into it than I had in college.

We decided to do dinner for the second night since my friends and I had gone to New York City for the weekend, and on Sunday night we were ready to hit the hay by 8 p.m.

Along with the college roommate I still live with, two of my other former roommates  came over as well.

I had gone to the supermarket and picked up some apples and honey, a round challah (Why is challah so much better?” my one friend asked) and a salad. I was trying to encourage healthy eating but alas, the salad bag remained unopened.

My mom had generously made some meatballs and a spinach kugel for us before she left, which was fortunate because otherwise I would have had to cook, and this article would instead be titled “Rosh Hashanah Dinner: A Disaster Story, Probably Involving Fire.”

The kugel and meatballs were heated and ready to serve by 7:15 p.m., and we were salivating from the smell alone.

The table was set with a plate of sliced apples and a dish of honey, the pot of meatballs, the plate with challah and plenty of wine. I had visions of decorating my apartment to go along with the meal, but there is little in the way of Rosh Hashanah streamers or decorations. I could have used the leftover Happy New Year hats in my closet from last year, which have probably collected a fair bit of dust, so it’s probably best that I passed on that.

Since my friends aren’t Jewish, they asked questions about what the holiday was (other than just a glorious time of year to enjoy my mom’s cooking). So we talked about what Rosh Hashanah is and how it’s different from Yom Kippur. When they asked if there were any prayers for the holiday, I attempted to recite the shehecheyanu and then we dug in. Amen, indeed.

The four of us ate while Gilmore Girls played in the background. We finished with a delicious chocolate babka cake even as we groaned about how full we were, but in all it was a fun night and a different way to experience the holiday.

Sometimes you can take for granted the customs and traditions your family holds until they unexpectedly change. And for me, with the new year comes new traditions.

Through explaining to my non-Jewish friends what Rosh Hashanah is and taking the time to really think about what it means, I was able to reflect on the last year — 5776, that is — both the good and bad.

Family comes in all forms, whether through blood or close friends. This year, I still spent the holiday with my family — just in a different way.

Shanah tovah!

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