Mine, or: Not?

A haibun

Despite the fact that both of my parents were raised in the USSR, celebrating Novy God, the secular New Year holiday, which remains popular in all post-Soviet states to this day, they abandoned it forever upon moving to Israel in the mid-70’s. When I was growing up in the USA, we only celebrated the Hebrew New Year; the Gregorian New Year held no relevance to us.

My wife grew up in Russia, celebrating Novy God, and when she moved to Israel she too dropped this non-Jewish tradition. However, she retained many fond memories of Novy God celebrations with her family, all of whom remained in Russia and continued to celebrate this national holiday. Eventually, my wife started to gradually incorporate more and more elements of Novy God into our family life in Israel, and it is now a holiday that our daughter identifies with and greatly looks forward to.

Personally, I still don’t feel any strong connection to New Year’s or Novy God, but I love how happy it makes my family.

winter's dark aglow
gifts magically appear
bright smiles warm our home

d’Verse ‘Haibun Monday’

Theme: ‘Celebration’

At d’Verse, poets were challenged to write haibuns with the theme of ‘celebration’.


New to Haibun? Write a paragraph or more of prose, or prose poetry, then follow it with a haiku—one that includes a season word, and juxtaposes two disparate images that, when paired, give us that “aha!” experience.

Let’s write poetry together!

When it comes to partnership, some humans can make their lives alone – it’s possible. But creatively, it’s more like painting: you can’t just use the same colours in every painting. It’s just not an option. You can’t take the same photograph every time and live with art forms with no differences.

Ben Harper (b. 1969)

Would you like to create poetry with me and have a completed poem of yours featured here at the Skeptic’s Kaddish? I am very excited to have launched the ‘Poetry Partners’ initiative and am looking forward to meeting and creating with you… Check it out!

82 thoughts on “Mine, or: Not?”

  1. I feel that many holidays have lost a bit of their meaning… it is more about I am off from work. On Thursday we will have Epiphany which is a holiday that we no longer celebrate, however I know that in Spain and Italy it is a big holiday… I have friends and colleagues from all kinds of cultures, and somehow I learn about theirs a lot…

  2. I understand your need to not dilute your own cultural and religious traditions. My own Britishness is being subsumed by American culture as we take up Halloween, Proms, and forsake Guy Fawkes. In Scotland, New Year is still a bigger celebration than Christmas, and until recent decades presents were only given at New Year.
    However, I have Hindu and Sikh friends who give presents to their children on Christmas day whiles keeping to their own faiths.

    1. Halloween is seeping into the UK, Kim? I actually did not know that! Also, I didn’t know that presents were only given at New Year… that’s not like America (as you know, obviously). Very interesting!

      Was there anything like a “prom” before the US concept came to the UK?


  3. “but I love how happy it makes my family” 😊 Reading about your hesitance and why, makes such sense. But I so love that you can still rejoice in your daughter’s and wife’s delight. A child’s excitement is so precious. Oh to see life as one big gift of wonder and delight.

  4. So many of the things we are attached to are socially imposed. They’re learned and can be replaced by other habits equally valid. A day is a day is a day and to invest a random date with importance is bizarre. So little of what we get excited about has any real significance. I like that you hang onto ancestral memories, even when they run counter to the general trend.

    1. Yeah – increasingly, as I get older, I realize how against the grain my drive to preserve my heritage is… particularly in the Western world…

      TBH, sometimes I even feel awkward about it.


      1. Our ‘heritage’ is composed of so many things, many of which we wouldn’t want to preserve, like human sacrifice and mass murder! We pick and choose the nice parts. It’s all pretty meaningless.

          1. why? not everyone has a need to.

            one of my very good friends in Jerusalem barely ever leaves his apartment, other than for shopping and other chores, and he’s quite happy in life.

          2. I meant just to keep my finger on the pulse of humanity.

            I hardly ever go out. Husband does the shopping once a week and I can go for weeks without seeing a (human) soul or speaking to anyone face to face. It suits me fine, but I know that as I discover what I consider to be the most important things in existence, I’m losing touch with what other people get excited about.

            Maybe I shouldn’t worry about it. Maybe I’m living the ‘normal’ life and the rest are living an ‘unnatural’ life. Who knows?

  5. Your heart knows what to do. Align it with the beats of your household and you have a winner to celebrate. Love your haibun. Happy New Year. All the best, always. I wish you miracles.
    p.s. You see it as a competition… I’m not judging. I do not see the competition. After all, we are one people. I bless you.

    1. 💞 Selma 💞 – thank you for the kind words.

      Regarding your P.S., I’d like to expound a bit on my perspective. I agree, of course, that we are all human beings – but within that, we have families, no? The Jewish people are my extended family, from my perspective. I’ve written about this here, if you’re curious to understand how I feel about it:

      To India (and others) with love

      I think all religions are competitors by default. They are all competing for adherents, and people tend to identify with only one (or maybe two) of them, rather than with all of them.

      Also, it’s important to consider how many members of each religion there are in order to understand how people may react to the possibility of some of their coreligionists leaving the fold. Today, there are more than 2.3 Billion Christians, and there are 15 Million Jews. I think this sheds some light on the perspective of many Jews regarding other Jews leaving their traditions.

      So, I would argue that it’s a luxury to feel that religions are not competing with one another – a luxury that people who are not members of minority religious groups have. Personally, I feel that as a Jew who wants his people to remain in existence on Earth, I do not have that luxury.

      Much love,

      1. Hey, David. I read your detailed account of “To India and others With Love” with the eagerness of a child. Eloquently rich & mesmerizing on every point. The most interesting thing I’ve read this week for sure. So much I don’t know. It will surely take me longer than most to understand the section about Judaism not being considered a religion and how Judaism and Jewishness are two different things altogether. A lot to take in. I want to understand, but when you point me to that post it feels like I’ve been sent to the principal’s office and now I need to apologize for that p.s. note. But you need not worry about me. I don’t need to understand every niche & stitch about who my friends are to love them still the same. I know your generosity is boundless. Love you for that. So, really thanks for pointing me to such a lovely post. I say it with no hard feelings & am genuinely grateful. In a scheduled post I have for Thursday that in my religious upbringing marks the end of the Christmas ‘Season’ celebration (Epiphany), I mention a Russian roommate, Jewish, who called our Christmas Tree a New Years Tree. With her, we opened gifts on January 7th as, “that’s when Ded Moroz visited,” she always told me. I accepted it as such. Perhaps I did her a disservice by not seeking to understand more, but even back then I knew I didn’t need to understand everything about her to celebrate with her & love her just the same. For sure, there’s a disparity in numbers: Billions/Millions as you point out. That competition is the default, is something I see now. But when I say I don’t see the competition I mean that I do not see the competition. I see only people. I see you, David. I see your soul and respect you and that’s enough for me. Happy new year, dear one. Love learning from You. I wish you miracles.

        1. when you point me to that post it feels like I’ve been sent to the principal’s office and now I need to apologize for that p.s. note.

          Selma – oh gosh – that’s not how I meant it at all… In fact, I was just trying to give my perspective because I felt that I had made you and possibly others uncomfortable by suggesting that I don’t want my children to be more like you.

          when I say I don’t see the competition I mean that I do not see the competition. I see only people. I see you, David. I see your soul and respect you and that’s enough for me.

          I totally agree with this, Selma – and thank you so much. Again, I hope you’re not offended because that was never my intention, as you understand.

          Much love and appreciation,

  6. David, my paternal grandmother was Russian born. She never spoke of her life there. I learned something new from your post, and I thank you for that. I can understand why you feel the need to protect your Jewish traditions. It must be hard because you also want to allow your daughter to know about joyful memories her mother wants to share with her.
    Your Haiku is a wonderful tribute to your warm family.

    1. 💕 Lauren 💕

      Truth is, in Israel, non-Jewish influences are less of a cultural threat because ours is the majority culture. That’s in part why I am ok with Novy God at home.

  7. An interesting post David. I can see how your issues with these celebrations can put a damper on things for you. I am glad your daughter enjoys it.

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