"It's the beginning of a new calendar year, that's all," my parents would say, shrugging off my complaints. Every time I told them that it was forbidden, they'd tell me simply, "It's the one holiday we had, don't you understand?" And that was that. Every year I surrendered, joining my family for their celebrations though I was sure I was guilty of utter idolatry.
It became my reluctant secret: I was a crypto-New-Year's-celebrating Orthodox Jew. On December 31st I'd come to school with a velvet dress and party shoes in my backpack, smiling uneasily to my classmates and knowing that in a matter of hours I'd be sinning and also probably enjoying it.
After classes ended, I'd run to the bathroom, change out of my long skirt and into my dress, and slip out to meet my parents and sisters waiting in the back.
Off we'd go, Brooklyn, Queens, wherever that year's celebration was being held, to loud affairs of smoked fish, beets, fried potatoes with mushrooms, catered platters of sushi and wine and vodka, too.
But it's far beyond a celebration; this holiday is a glimmer of nostalgia which brands us as eternally Diaspora Jews, holding on to a relic of another place and time that we're unable to give up, as we saute our onions and prepare our anecdotes. Whether we want to or not, and no matter how often we pray, we still find ourselves playing those violins and dancing those accidental waltzes.