Needless to say, this pursuit of mercy calls for a lot of prayer.
While the heavier aspects of the New Year are somewhat ameliorated by lots of great food and time with friends and family, one of the most interesting customs is the simanim, explained by Artscroll as "significant omens." We eat symbolic foods at the evening meals, saying blessings that play with the Hebrew or Yiddish names for the foods. There is much talk of increasing our merits and asking Hashem to get rid of our enemies. As time has gone by, we have enjoyed additions to these portentous little word games, sometimes in English.
We had more fun with our simanim this year than I can remember, mostly because we took ideas from everyone. It didn't hurt that the traditional fish head was as big as a football. Of course, for some of my manly men, I had to offer an alternative. Usually, I manage to find "gummi fish" to get the squeamish past the quite important blessing about being more like the head than the tail. But this year, I just couldn't find our traditional substitute. Well, not one to make the boys suffer, I came up with a home-made version:
I served it with the following gentle reminder: "Anyone who doesn't clearly see that this is a fish head will be dining on Charlie the Tuna with me." The relevant players suddenly became great fans of jelly bean art.
Some of our favorite simanim at this year's celebration were:
...that we may enjoy peace!
...that we all live in harmony!
courtesy of the Hurwitz family
...that we kin stay pumped about fulfilling the mitzvot! (This one was from our own Sports Guy -- who else? Next year, I'll have to season it with cinnamon and sugar. Sports Guy almost invented a new event: "pumpkin hurling.")
...sheyichamsu et oyveinu! (from the brilliant and talented Gottlieb kids)
...that we "gezer togezer" to celebrate what we all hope and pray will be a very, VERY good year -- for our families, our neighbourhood, and our land. AMEN! (Brachot and Canadian spelling brought to you buy Harvey Poch.)
For a nice explanation and description of the symbolic foods, see Rabbi Moshe Lazurus' ABCs of Rosh Hashana.
Oh, and another thing:
"Cola Wars" are an entirely different story here. It's all about which company can give the best matanot (presents).