Friday, September 25, 2009

sweet traditions

one of the things i value about fall is the jewish holidays and the fact that they bring about a whole set of traditions and memories i hold very dear. one of the nicest is the dipping of an apples in honey to signify the start of a sweet new year. it's one of those constants, like seasons. it's perennial, and it happens no matter what else is going on in the world or my life.

when i was a baby and could not yet say the blessing or eat my grandmother's brisket, my parents and grandparents blessed and dipped and ate on my behalf...when i was a young hebrew school student, i proudly led the prayer and song that followed, demanding my parents' and grandparents' attention. when i was a teenager and still too young to appreciate my mother finally mastering brisket, i might have rolled my eyes and waited to leave as they all tried to maintain a cheerful (and holy) mood while dipping apples. and only a few years ago, i was charmed by the first year of dipping with the man i would marry and the family that would soon be his as well.

this year, we mourned the loss of one grandmother and brought apples and honey to another, too old to remember the prayer on her own or to make her famous brisket. and one day, mitchell and i will do the dipping for our child who is too young to say the blessing. and so it goes...

another perennial holiday treat is all the visual niceties that come with the holidays and the fact that objects themselves can become traditions too. i was struck this year by how influenced my own choices have been by what i grew up with. not that this general concept comes as a shock, but for some reason before now, i never saw the direct correlation.

for example, one of the things i love most about holidays at my parents' house is the use of my grandmother's china -- the same one my mother grew up eating brisket off of. it's old english china and each piece is a little different - the dishes are white, but have gold accents and rims of different widths and colors. there are dinner plates, salad plates, soup bowls and teacups and saucers, and between them all, the combinations are endless. i love this take on traditional china - it's mix and match and not too precious, but still very beautiful and sparkly on a holiday table. the gold accents are key!

a couple years ago, i started my own collection of english teacups, and my grandmother has given me a few of hers to help build my collection. i'm sure one day i will end up with more of hers, and i love the idea that i am uniting, or reuniting, items that belong together. i love matthew mead's post on this idea on his blog flea market style.

another page i realize i took right out of my mom's book (and that she took out of her mom's book, and so on) is a two-bowl server. my mom usually uses hers for horseradish, one bowl for each kind, but has also used it for salt and pepper, apples and honey and other yin and yang type things. (yin and yang were jewish, you know...)

the version i opted for has three bowls, which has turned out to be awkward at times because i have nothing to put in the third, but is generally the same idea. it was a gift i registered for when we were engaged, and i'm so glad i have it. in addition to traditional holiday uses, i've also used it for sweeteners, olives and assorted candies (not all together, of course - that would just be weird).

when i use these items, i smile because i feel like i'm continuing traditions that came before me and will continue after me, like i'm a part of a whole that is greater than just my life.

i guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. or the honey.

apple photo from; three bowl server photo from


Marianna said...

Shana Tova!

Maria said...

Honestly, I think I am secretly Jewish...I love everything about a Jewish wedding, and I LOVE dipping apples in honey. Maybe in another life...

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