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Sukkot — a Jewish celebration of fall!

 

Copyright: karaidel / 123RF Stock Photo

Sukkot (say "sook-koht" or "sook-kuss") is a week-long Jewish celebration of the fall season. If you want to learn more about this joyful time, read on!

What is Sukkot?

the inside of a large community sukkah in Jerusalem

People celebrate the harvest in a community sukkah in Safra Square, Jerusalem, 2009. (Wikimedia)

Sukkot is a little like Thanksgiving. It is a festival for giving thanks for many things, like food and shelter.

The holiday celebrates the farmer’s yearly harvest, which takes place in the fall.

Sukkot also commemorates the biblical story of the Jews’ escape from Egypt. They wandered for 40 years through the desert, living in temporary shelters.


How is it celebrated?

an apartment building with sukkahs on the balconies

Even those who live in apartments build sukkahs, like these ones in balconies. (Photo by Ze'ev Barkan licensed CC BY 2.0)

The word sukkot means "booths." Like the shelters the Jews lived in when they were travelling through the desert. Or the shelters farmers use while gathering the harvest.

During Sukkot, Jewish families build a temporary little hut or shelter in their yard. It is called a sukkah (say "sook-kaw").
 

a family sits at the table in their sukkah for dinner

A family celebrates Sukkot with a meal inside their decorated sukkah. (Wikimedia/Tfursten/CC BY-SA 3.0)

The roof covering must be made of something that used to grow in the earth. It can be made of palm leaves or bamboo sticks. The walls can be made of any material that can hold up to the wind.

Families will decorate their huts with leaves, fruit and vegetables. They will also put up their kids' artwork. It is traditional to eat meals in the sukkah. Some people even sleep in them during the week-long celebration.


A drive-through sukkah is useful during the pandemic

Child pops head out of sun roof to admire the sukkot.

Young boy looks up at the temporary drive-in sukkah, which is a shelter covered in palm leaves. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

This year, some synagogues will have drive-through sukkahs. There will also be sukkahs with social distancing and masks.

A drive-through sukkah lets people stay in their cars as they sit in the sukkah. It's a safe and healthy alternative for people to observe the holiday during the pandemic.


Are there any other special traditions?

the different plants that make up a lulav

The different plants used to make a lulav. (Canva)

Another Sukkot tradition is to make a lulav (say "loo-lahv"). This is a group of branches that are tied together. They include a palm branch, myrtle (an evergreen shrub) and willow branches.
 

a lulav, an etrog and a silver holder for the etrog

Branches tied together to make a "lulav," a yellow "etrog" fruit, and in the middle is a silver etrog box to hold the fruit. (Wikimedia/Gilabrand/CC BY-SA 3.0)

The branches are held in one hand. A citrus fruit called an etrog (like a lemon) is held in the other.

These items are waved in all directions (north, south, east, west, up and down). At the same time traditional prayers are said.


What do you say to someone celebrating Sukkot?

 

While celebrating Sukkot, you might hear people say Chag Sameach (say "chahg sah-MEY-atch). You are wishing them a "joyous festival!"