Six Excuses To Celebrate Jewishly This Summer

It's a Barren Season for Jewish Holidays — Until Now!

Kurt Hoffman

By Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic

Published June 23, 2013, issue of June 28, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

Sadly, between Shavuot (May 15) and Rosh Hashanah (September 5) there is a shortage of Jewish holidays. Sure, there’s Tisha B’Av (July 15), a day to recall the destruction of the First and Second Temples and other Jewish tragedies. But who wants to throw a party on a fast day? Tu B’Av, the Israeli equivalent of Valentine’s Day, comes soon after (July 21). But outside of Israel, it’s a minor festival. And what if you’re single?

We Jews like having a holiday every few weeks or so. It gives us an excuse to get together, shmooze and overeat. (And while we love the Fourth of July, kosher hotdogs do not a Jewish holiday make.) In the name of anthropological research, we dug into the vault and uncovered a few unknown holidays observed by Jewish suburbanites around the country.

Won’t you join us in celebrating this summer? We will whip up an apple cake and set the table for 10.

Rosh To Barbecue

Kurt Hoffman

This festival celebrates the first evening you light the barbecue and decide it’s warm enough to eat dinner on the deck. Preparations for this holiday include scraping last year’s schmutz off the grill, sending someone to get the propane tank filled and stocking up on paper plates. Guests may come, bringing offerings of pasta salad and fruit pie. Although a menorah is not necessary, it is customary to kindle the citronella lights. This year, the holiday ritual of “swatting the mosquitoes” is being replaced by the “dodging of the cicadas.” On the Jewish calendar, 5773 is the year of return in their 17-year cycle. In your siddur on Rosh To Barbecue, read the alternative section, in red.

Pulke Day

Kurt Hoffman

The day when you pull on your bathing suit for the first time. It’s a hot day and you’ve been invited to a friend’s backyard pool, but your thighs are still large and white and dimpled as a pulke, or chicken thigh. (Even when your thighs are nice and tan, they will continue to be large and dimpled.) This little-known day of mourning — it’s nothing compared with Tisha B’Av — is primarily celebrated by women ages 35-65. Some choose to fast on this day, but that won’t help.

Yom Lo Kinder

Kurt Hoffman

This freedom festival is celebrated mainly by parents of children ages 6 to 16 on the day they drop the kids off at summer camp. While the children’s holiday attire is informal, minhag, or Jewish custom, says that every article of clothing must be labeled with the name of the child. The most common prayers include the “Don’t get sick so I have to come and fetch you” and the “Stop being homesick; you’re not missing anything.” There is no special siddur; prayers are spontaneous. Emotions run high as parents are relieved, guilty, happy and sad to entrust their precious offspring into the care of inexperienced counselors. When the parents return home to an empty house, the ritual four cups of wine (good stuff, not Manischewitz) are often part of their celebratory meal.

Kine-a-Schnorrer

Kurt Hoffman

Celebrated only by Jews fortunate enough to have a backyard swimming pool, this holiday ushers in the summer season, when uninvited guests — the “summer ushpizin” — drop by just for a little swim. Those who observe this holiday year after year are familiar with the protocol: Guests swim, then ask for a little nosh, then you have to serve iced tea and offer them a dry towel. Before you know it, you have 10 loads of laundry to do. The Kine-a-Schnorrer holiday gives rise to the well-known expression “Make a fence around the pool.”

Schlepping Sand

Kurt Hoffman

An obscure pilgrimage festival celebrated by Jews near beaches. This is the day when Jewish families load up the car with bikes, coolers and beach towels and journey to the sea. Although no temple sacrifice is necessary, parents do sacrifice sanity, money and personal space by sharing a rental house with the whole mishpokhe, or extended family. At the conclusion of the Schlepping Sand festival — after loads of sand are accidentally schlepped back home in crusty towels and unwashed beach toys — children begin the solemn “counting of the school supplies,” marking time until the first day of school. Traditional holiday foods include salt water taffy, Good Humor popsicles and squished tuna fish sandwiches. “Yes, they’re still good. I packed them this morning.”

Simchat Squash

Kurt Hoffman

This Festival of First Fruits From the Backyard Garden is celebrated mostly by suburban Jews as they gather in the bounty of their 3-by-5 plots. Offerings include black-spotted tomatoes, misshapen carrots, scraggly string beans and a plethora of zucchini. Customs include Googling zucchini recipes and recalling the legend in which God tells the Israelites, “Just eat it. It’s good for you.” Festive foods pay homage to the summer squash and include zucchini muffins, zucchini pancakes, zucchini bread and zucchini kugel. City-dwelling Jewish hipsters don’t celebrate this holiday; they belong to food co-ops and community supported agriculture programs.

Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic are the authors of the “Dictionary of Jewish Words.” They tweet @TheWordMavens and blog at TheWordMavens.wordpress.com. Their newspaper column, “Shmoozing With the Word Mavens,” was syndicated in Jewish newspapers across the country. They write frequently for the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, InterfaithFamily.com and other publications. They can be reached at info@TheWordMavens.com.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.