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  • Marilyn Saltzman

Creating New Rituals with Zerizut

2020 has been a year of mourning the loss of old rituals while creating new ones with zerizut (enthusiasm). *

The first ritual casualty was Passover. Rather than the usual crowd of friends and family gathered around our Seder table, it was just Irv and I sharing the traditional wine, matzoh and charoset along with dinner. I didn’t make my “famous” brisket – too much for two. Yes, we were alone, but not lonely as we appreciated the newfound quiet reflection of the holiday. And at the time, we figured it was the only 2020 tradition we’d spend alone. Alas, many more were to follow.

Selam’s birthday and her fifth-grade graduation turned into intimate family celebrations in the backyard. The back-to-school ritual of shopping for new clothes and school supplies became superfluous because the kids were going to class online.

And Halloween. Our annual ritual is for the kids and I to go to Trick or Treat Street at their elementary school. In past years, we lined up outside the building, shivering in the cold air, dressed in our Halloween finery. Finally, it was our turn to enter the building. Following the crowd of witches, goblins, astronauts and cartoon characters, we snaked through the dark hallways painstakingly transformed into a haunted house by the staff. The teachers, dressed in costume, sat in front of their classrooms, distributing fistfuls of miniature Hershey’s bars, rolls of Sweetarts and Reese’s pieces. The event culminated with dozens of kids hopped up on sugar raucously playing games in the gym.

This year, Halloween, like all the other rituals, became a small family affair. And Selam and Dian faced it with zerizut. Weeks in advance, the two began planning a celebration, including sending Irv and me a printed invitation complete with googly eyes. The invitation promised “Socialization with social distancing. DUH!!!” Also “a Halloween Haunted Trail Maze, snacks, dinner, dessert, activities and more!!!”

The morning of Halloween, the grandkids were up early to create the haunted maze. Yellow police tape, bloody plastic skulls, glow-in-the-dark skeletons, and ghosts hanging from pine trees greeted us as we walked through the wooded property. At the end of the trail, Selam and Dian met us with plastic pumpkins filled with small bags of Whoppers and other sugary treats that we had to earn in a bean bag toss or by guessing a secret number.

Selam and Dian even planned and prepared the meal, including appetizers of “bloody” slices of apple decorated with food coloring, homemade smoothies and meatballs. Not once did the grandkids complain about missing the school’s annual Halloween party. It was a special day because they had designed it with all their youthful enthusiasm and creativity. This week: Thanksgiving. Instead of our annual dinner at Jan’s, with twenty or more guests, we’ll have a quiet family celebration. The kids will sleep over at our house on Wednesday, and Thursday morning they’ll help Irv and me make pumpkin, apple and Selam’s favorite, lemon meringue pie. (A new Thanksgiving tradition?) Then we’ll head to their house for dinner.

Next up is Chanukah. The kids are disappointed that we can’t go to Beth Evergreen to light candles with other families, share latkes and crafts. And we won’t have our annual party and gift exchange with our Boulder cousins. Instead, we’ll start new rituals. We’ll make our own beeswax candles and hand-painted dreidels. And we’ll wrap presents for each other, and more importantly, for another family. We’ve adopted a client family from Mountain Resource Center. With zerizut, Selam and Dian picked out toys and clothing for this family from Target and Amazon online. They had as much fun choosing those presents as they did picking out their own, and they even chipped in some of their own money to make the purchases.

So, yes, many of our family traditions had to go by the wayside this year. And it gave us the opportunity to develop new rituals with zerizut.

*Zerizut – I love this Hebrew word, an onomatopoeia that my grandchildren embody.



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