Eight Ways to Celebrate Sukkot This Year

Sukkot, along with Passover and Shavuot, is one of three annual pilgrimage festivals in the Jewish calendar. This eight-day holiday is joyful for children and adults alike. Sukkot translates to "many booths," and traditionally families assemble sukkahs (temporary three-sided booths) in their garden or on a porch or balcony. PJ Library notes that "the open booth is a reminder of how the Children of Israel slept after they fled slavery in Egypt, a connection to the story of Passover. It also resembles temporary shelters from the sun used by farmers planting out in the fields."

Kids with lulav and etrog

Since Sukkot takes place in the Fall, there is an abundance of ways we can connect to the Earth to celebrate this special festival. The lulav (willow, palm, and myrtle branches) and the etrog make up the four species which are important ritual objects for Sukkot. When we think about the four types of plants and bind them together ceremonially before shaking them in all directions, we express our wish for unity – both within ourselves and among all people.

Here are eight ways your family can celebrate the eight days of Sukkot at home this year:

  1. No sukkah, no worries – make a mini one: There are many ways you can create a mini sukkah. Try your hands at making an edible sukkah or use legos to construct one. These projects are designed with fun in mind!

  2. Embark on a Sukkot treasure hunt: We can take inspiration from the four species of Sukkot and search for things that feature the number four, such as shapes that have four sides or four corners in nature. Just like the family in the PJ Library book Sukkot Treasure Hunt, you may find many symbolic objects around your home or neighborhood.
  3. Bake a cake: Eating is central to most Jewish holidays and Sukkot is no exception. Baking etrog or lemon cake is a fragrant and delicious way to honor the holiday species. The PJ Library book Bubbe Isabella and the Sukkot Cake is one of my favorite Sukkot books featuring cake!
  4. Give joyfully: Families traditionally extend hospitality to friends and neighbors by sharing meals and treats in sukkahs during Sukkot. This year, we can gather virtually or at a safe distance and find new meaningful ways to connect to our wider community. We can give charitably (tzedakah) to those in need and participate in community service projects, such as donating to local food banks.
  5. Create a star map: The roof of a sukkah is traditionally made of plants that have been cut down called s'chach. It must provide shade from the sun, but also enough light for people to see stars at night. Many people, including the family in the PJ Library book Night Lights: A Sukkot Story, wonder at the beauty of the night sky, the fullness of the moon, and the brightness of the stars. Have fun creating star maps to celebrate the night sky!
  6. Craft a Sukkot collage: This activity is perfect for young children to learn more about the Sukkot holiday. Adults can ask children questions such as “what does a sukkah look like,” “what is a lulav made out of,” and “what do people do in a sukkah?”

  7. Eat stuffed food: "Many traditional Sukkot foods are filled foods, particularly vegetables and pastries, symbolizing the bounty of the harvest," wrote chef Rabbi Gil Marks in his cookbook, The World of Jewish Entertaining. Jamie Geller has also perfected 30 stuffed food recipes to celebrate Sukkot. You may try some of these dishes during the eight-day festival. I have my eye on the Raisin Apple – Stuffed Squash!
  8. Reuse your etrog: The etrog, one of the four symbols of Sukkot, can be repurposed creatively after it has been shaken with the lulav for eight days. Etrogs look and smell like large lemons and can be used for many projects: the seeds can be planted, the whole fruit can make marmalade, and the peel smells great in a Havdalah spice mix. The etrog boxes can even be used for tabletop decorations or tzedakah projects. If you do not have your own etrog, a huge lemon makes an excellent substitution for most projects.

One thing I have learned this year is that, like sukkahs that we construct for Sukkot, we will always build places to come together, in person or virtually, to celebrate our Jewish culture and traditions. May all of us enjoy this Sukkot with family and friends!


September 29, 2020