Unless you live in an ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood, the pinnacle of holiday-dom in this nation seems, most naturally, marked by the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, with the obvious high points being those two holidays and Christmas serving as the main trio. With the exception of Halloween and Mother's Day, these three are most likely to inspire people to spend their money on greeting and holiday cards more than any other.
Not coincidentally, this time also marks the passage from Summer and Fall into Winter, unless you live in Australia, where things "down under" are completely upside down, both literally and figuratively. Incidentally, this begs the question "Do people in Australia refer to the rest of the world as Up Over?"
But I digress.
If you're a member of the Jewish faith, you also likely celebrate -- or at least acknowledge the arrival of -- the Jewish New Year, which is an eight-day period beginning with a two-day celebration known as Rosh Hashanah and culminating in a day of fasting and reverance known as Yom Kippur, also commonly referred to as the Day of Atonement. The Jewish New Year, unlike this nation's observance of New Year's Day, is not merely a holiday from work and responsibility and a celebration of alcohol, parties and public drunkenness. In its place, it is a time for Jews to be thankful of their families and friends and look to the coming year for health, happiness and success. The general concept is that by demonstrating our forgiveness to those that have wronged us over the course of the past year, and by asking forgiveness of those we have wronged over the course of the past year, we -- and those about which we care -- will be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year and will, god willing, be with us for another year.
Invariably, during my observance of these holidays, I alternate between celebration and thoughts of the future; while another year passes, my personal observance lends itself towards wishing my family and friends a healthy, sweet, happy year, and invariably I find myself wondering why we spend so much time focusing on these wishes and prayers only once or twice each year and not more frequently. That is not to say I don't do so with regularity -- in fact, I do find myself keeping my virtual fingers crossed with respect to the health and happiness of my family and friends -- it's just that, I suppose, we shouldn't so much focus solely on these wishes so rarely but we should do so all the time. I guess, in the guise of the "simple son," that this holiday period isn't the sole time of reflection but a time of sole -- and soul -- reflection. That is, I think these days aren't meant to be the only time we absolve others -- and ourselves -- of our transgressions, but days during which that is our only focus. We shouldn't observe these days as our only opportunities to thank The Man Upstairs for what we have and wish, hope and pray for the same or better in the coming year; we should take this time to focus only on letting The Man Upstairs know that we're thankful for our lives and those of our families and friends. And even if we haven't made many inroads on things we apologized for from last year, each year is a clean slate filled with optimism, hope and positive change.
I think, among my other transgressions, my main goal is, simply, to be more thankful and appreciative of those I care about -- family, friends, etc. -- not just during these High Holy days but throughout the year, each and every day.
So on a personal note, if I've made any mistakes or wronged anyone reading these words, I apologize. And if you've done the same to me, it's already forgiven.
Here's hoping the coming year is happy, sweet, healthy, successful and memorable -- in a good way -- for us, our families, our friends and for those people about whom we care.
Happy New Year!