At Sundown this evening, Rosh Hashanah begins. As it is Shabbos there will be no shofar blown, but it will still be the start of the new year.
I always prefer the Jewish New Year to the Gregorian one. Our January 1 date seems arbritrary, falling in the dead of winter, just as all the festivals have ended. It's the most anti-climactic holiday imaginable.
Rosh Hashanah, on the other hand, celebrates the New Year as starting shortly after the time of harvest. What better way to celebrate hope and promise than when surrounded by the fruits of your labour in the field? Our culture, several generations seperated from agrarian lifestyle, has lost most of the concept of harvest--of a time of bounty. I don't think it's an accident that most ancient religions revered this time of year as sacred. I chuckle to myself when I read things about people liking September as the start of something, almost always linking it back to their memories of starting school. There's a degree of that, but there's also the memory of our genes, with thousands of years of celebrating new beginnings at harvest. Whether you are descended from the Jews of Israel or the Druids of the British Isles you come from a people who rever the fruits of the land as a sign of something greater.
Falling hard on the heels of Rosh Hashanah is Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. After that is Sukkot. Together these fall feasts represent newness, the cleansing of sin, and the bounty of the Lord. It's a great object lesson for Jews and their Christian cousins alike. The Lord consecrates these three days as reminders of redemption and plenty. As each of the three fall feasts occurs, I'll be writing more in depth about them.
But for today, beginning at Sundown, revel in the concept of a new year. Eat apples and bread dipped in honey as a symbol of the sweetness of the days to come.