There's a lot to love about being Jewish, but for me the icing on the cake is we get to ring in New Year's not once, but twice a year. That's almost as good as celebrating Chanukah for eight nights.
In the fall, I look forward to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a chance for Jews to start anew. I love the senses of the High Holidays—the taste of sweet, honey-kissed Jewish foods, the smell of challah, wine, and candles intermingling, and the sound of the shofar echoing throughout the synagogue.
I take seriously the season of reflection, reviewing what I've done right and wrong during the course of the year, and asking people in my life and God for forgiveness. And the Al Cheit prayer, the confession of our sins chanted as a community on Yom Kippur, has real power. As a community and as individuals, I love that we can always do better in the new year. It's a beautiful thing to reflect and then start over with a clean slate.
Then, the trees turn bare, the temperature plummets, and the aroma of wood smoke and pine fill the air. And before we know it, December arrives and we get to ring in the new year again, this time blowing New Year's noisemakers—-rather than shofars—with the rest of the world. In December, there isn't a Jewish imperative to repent, but once again I reflect on the year behind me and look ahead to the next.
Most people I know aren't so into New Year's Eve. They think it's overhyped and don't like to schlep out in the cold to spend way too much money at a bar or party with blasting music and drunken strangers.
While all of that may be true, I kinda love it. I'm always up for a celebration and I like having an excuse to grab a sparkly dress from the closet, drink some bubbly, and hang out with friends and family, contemplating the things I wish to change when the clock strikes midnight.
The current movie New Year's Eve, a Gary Marshall, celebrity-crammed romcom, follows intertwining story lines all taking place on Dec. 31, 2011. While much of the film is a mere excuse to get Jon Bon Jovi, Ashton Kutcher, Halle Berry, and a zillion other stars on the same marquee, there's a sweet message to the movie about starting over with hope for the new year.
At year's end, the media fills the airwaves, pages, and websites with top 10 lists with everything from top trends to top tweets to top celebrity weddings. Ever since I could hold a pen in my hand, I've taken a few moments each December to write a top 10 list of my resolutions, my hopes, for the next year. Sure, the dreaded "Get on the treadmill more" usually makes the list, but so do deeper mandates to myself like "Do something that matters," "Make a difference in someone's life who needs it," "Laugh more," and my favorite, "Spend more time with people who get you—and less time with people who don't."
Let's use these last couple days of the year to take stock of where we are and where we're headed—and then we can do it again in September.
Happy 2012 and may your 5772 continue to be sweet!