For every person, the holidays mean something different. For some people, it’s a time to be with family and enjoy the company. For some people, it’s a time to dread going to see family, and maybe to drink sorrows away. For other people, it’s a time to avoid family entirely.
I’d like to reflect on my experiences with family as it relates to the High Holidays.
I will make a dangerous generalization here: Jewish people have a stronger family dynamic than other people. This is based solely on knowing my Jewish friends and my own family’s dynamic around each other.
When I was younger and living in Lincoln, going to services was annoying on the High Holidays, but it was worth it for, on Rosh Hashanah, going to Omaha after services in order to have lunch at Aunt Cheryl or Aunt Pam’s place. The communing with family was always drama-free as I saw it, and since I love road trips, that furthered the enjoyment of those days.
(Actually, however, when we lived in Fort Dodge, my siblings and I went back to school after services ended on Rosh Hashanah, so I felt little special about the day back then.)
Fast forward to after I moved to Evanston. Although Aunt Soni lives in Milwaukee (just a 90-minute train ride from downtown Chicago), I never went up there for any of the Jewish holidays, due to the travel time and how busy I was at Northwestern… not to mention that I had free access to services at NU Hillel.
Ever since I have lived in Chicago, though I have wanted to be home for the Jewish holidays, I have not, due to circumstance rather than deliberate avoidance.
My first couple of years at Northwestern, I didn’t have any particular “family” that I spent time with during the holidays, but made some new friends during services.
In 2011, after returning from Birthright, I became more in tune with my “tribal” family, for the fact that my immediate and close-extended family were not in convenient reach for me. This somewhat bothered me, but I knew that there was a place and a time for everything. I realized, after Birthright, that I can be happy in almost any situation.
Recent High Holidays have had the term “Honorary Family Member” for me. In 2012 and 2013, I enjoyed Rosh Hashanah meals with my friend Sarah and her family down in Chicago, and then again in 2015, but up in St. Paul. Also in 2015, the Block/Peck family opened their place to me when I had nowhere else to sleep within the Cities, and felt like honorary family.
And now this year, I am an honorary family member of Dina’s family… but as a boyfriend rather than just a good friend. Regardless, the “friend” part of that b-word is the most important part. I can be friendly with anyone.
An interesting thing will come about for Thanksgiving, however, based on this last paragraph. But that is a different post for a different time, given the focus on this post on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur only.
Kol Nidrei/Yom Kippur: 7 days
End of the Ad-Hominems: 35 days
Lincoln: 77 days