By Stephanie D. Lewis
My nice, gentile neighbor tries to incorporate cultural or religious things into our friendship to show she’s respectful of and interested in Judaism. Last Dec 31st, she invited me for a New Year’s Eve party and when I arrived she shouted, “Shana Tova!” On her dessert buffet table was a cheesecake, a box of See’s candy, a chocolate Bundt cake, and a dish of apples and honey. Interesting.
As midnight approached, her other guests received pointy hats, noisemakers, confetti to toss, and paper party horns to blow, but I was handed a kippah, a grogger, bread crumbs to throw, and a ram’s horn. Needless to say, I felt it was time to do a little comparing and contrasting for everyone’s enlightenment.
- VOWS — On Dec 31st people make yearly resolutions to eat less food each day.On Rosh Hashana, I resolve to cut back each day as well — because I’m in training for fasting on Yom Kippur.
- WRITING — Come Jan 1st (thru let’s say approximately the 7th) people will (out of force of habit) jot down 2018 when they sign and date something. But next Rosh Hashana, no Jew will accidentally still write 5779 in their checkbook.
- ROUND CIRCLES — At 11:59 pm on Dec 31st, someone will invariably nudge a family member awake to gawk as the huge ball drops to the ground in NYC Times Square while yelling,”So? Isn’t that exciting!” On Rosh Hashana, inevitably a large matzo ball will fall onto the kitchen floor and without even a second glance I’ll shout,”Nu? Clean it up!”
- PRESSURE — The last week in December everyone inquires, “What’s your big deal plan for New Years and what’ll you wear? You’re not staying home doing nothing ,are you?” In Sept, no Jew asks where another Jew will be on Rosh Hashana, nor about their attire. Where will they be?? In synagogue all day long, shvitzing because the weather is never compatible for High Holiday tweed suits or stockings for the ladies. And staying home all day doing nothing? Never an option.
- SONGS — “Auld Lang Syne” is a traditional melody to belt out on NewYears, but after “Should old acquaintances be forgot…” many forget the rest of the lyrics and fake it with lame mumbling. Similarly, “Avinu Malkeinu”comes out nice and strong until that familiar point, but then some people (like me!) stop singing, while lip-synching feebly.
- MIDNIGHT — It’s the crucial countdown, do you know which person you’ll smooch at12:00? Figure it out fast! It’s Rosh Hashana but instead of kissing, we’re kibbitzing till the wee hours. If you still need someone to peck, Great Aunt Sophie’s wrinkled cheek will do just fine.
- WHEN — Ask anyone when the secular New Year will ring in and you’ll get a look like you’re a mashuganah. But innocently inquire what date Erev Rosh Hashana falls on this year and instantly eighteen Jews google, debate, and text their Rabbi.
- ENTERTAINMENT — There’s probably a cool DJ at the New Year’s Eve party and he’s gonna be up to speed on the Top 40 and interact heavily with all the guests. But nobody expects the Cantor in shul to chant anything new, (let alone a hip remixed mash-up of BaShana HaBa’ah) on Rosh Hashana. And if they come down off the bimah to do the Hineni prayer, well it’s a fantastic surprise!
- SYMBOL — A baby is used to personify the start of New Year. It’s represented asa chubby tot wearing nothing more than a diaper and a sash across his torso that depicts the year he’s representing. Show a Jew an infant like this on Rosh Hashana (or any day of the year!) and she’ll kvell over the size of his fat, cute pulkes while admonishing, “Put some clothes on this boy chick! You’ll catch him his death of cold, G-d forbid!”
And now that we’re all clear on the differences, let’s raise a glass of champagne (or Manischewitz wine) high into the air, because soon we’re gonna party like it’s 2019, even though we know it’s actually 5779. HappyNew Year, L’CHAIM readers!
Stephanie D. Lewis is a regular writer for the comedy section of the Huffington Post and pens an online blog called OnceUponYourPrime.com.