Rosh Hodesh, also spelled Rosh Chodesh (“Ch” as in “Bach”), is the celebration of the new Hebrew month, an ancient festival finding renewal among contemporary Jews.
Rosh Hodesh means the “head” or first day of the lunar month (just as “Rosh Hashanah” means the “head of the year”). It begins on the evening in which the first sliver of the new moon can be sighted in the sky, an event which varies between 29 and 30 days from the previous new moon. Some months have one day of Rosh Hodesh and others have two. Although now you can find the date of Rosh Hodesh by consulting a Jewish calendar, it’s wonderful to get in touch with the natural rhythms of time by also looking up to find the moon in the evening sky.
Creative Ideas for Celebrating Rosh Hodesh
Light a floating candle in a round bowl to symbolize the motifs of the moon “floating” in the heavens, as well as the round cycle of life and the waters of birth and renewal. I observed Mazal Danan, my Sephardic mother-in-law of blessed memory, kindle floating oil lights on Rosh Hodesh, each in memory of a righteous person.There is no traditional blessing to say but it’s a great time to say your own prayers and blessings in your own words.
Take a semi-holiday and schedule Rosh Hodesh as a day for self-care such as a massage, a walk in a new natural setting or art museum, getting together with a friend in person or reaching out to a friend far away.
Make it a day to help others by offering a well-considered donation to a Tzedakah (charity, righteous giving) project of your choice. Empty out your tzedakah box and donate the money to a local cause.
Have a special meal for family and/or friends, including a new fruit of the season for which you can say a she-hecheyanu blessing. You could serve crescent shaped breads or rolls to symbolize the new moon.
When our kids were young, we followed our Rosh Hodesh dinner with an informal “family meeting” where we would discuss upcoming Jewish holidays and other family plans and issues. We would then distribute allowances–guaranteed to help kids remember the day! These and more ideas are included in a parenting book that I back when my kids were young: The Jewish Parents’ Almanac.
If you have a special family simchah (happy occasion) such as a baby naming or housewarming, see if you can schedule it for a Rosh Hodesh as an extra dimension of celebration.
Don’t look for a Rosh Hodesh in the month of Tishrei; it is superseded by Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, which also begins at the New Moon.
You can find many more ideas for personal rituals or for a Rosh Hodesh gathering here at Ritualwell.org.
A wonderful new organization is bringing the meaning of Rosh Hodesh to a new generation as a time for women’s health and renewal. They offer beautiful and creative Moon Manuals with resources for all the Hebrew months, plus guidance and support to start your own Well Circle. Check out At the Well .
Featured Image: Moon over Bear Mountain, Julie Danan (A waning moon, but a pretty one!)
Learn more about the phases of the moon.