Sukkot for Families

Creative tips for the happiest time of the year.

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After the more somber holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Sukkot bursts through our doors as the Jewish holiday of unbridled happiness, z’man simhateinu (the time of our joy). Here are a few suggestions for how to make Sukkot fun for your whole family--a time to create wonderful family traditions, rituals, and memories.

Building the Sukkah

children in a sukkahWhile building your own sukkah may seem like an overwhelming proposition, it can actually be a fun family project--and a relatively simple one at that. If you have the space and the inclination, consider ordering an easy, ready-to-assemble sukkah from a website such as The Sukkah Center.

Building a sukkah is one of the few mitzvot (commandments) that involve the whole body. This can be a great bonding experience for everyone, especially in the crisp fall air. Find ways for each family member to get involved. Older children can help with the heavy building, while the younger ones can help gather tools and decorate.

If you are unable to build your own sukkah, there are plenty of opportunities to participate in the building and/or decorating of a community sukkah. Often synagogues organize family sukkah decorating events. Or you might ask a family friend who builds a sukkah if your family can lend a hand.

Time for "Home Decorating"

The Torah commands us to "dwell" in the sukkah. For the week of the holiday, the Sukkah becomes our home, and unlike our permanent homes--where the parents most likely do the interior decorating--Sukkot can be a fun opportunity for kids to help make decorating decisions. Your sukkah can be an ideal place to display your children’s artwork, for example.

Kids can choose a theme for the sukkah. The theme could be holiday related or not. I know one family who decided to have a "Global Sukkah" and decorated their sukkah with pictures from all over the world. Another family had a "Dora the Explorer" sukkah and made pictures of all the Dora friends. They had different parts of the sukkah represent different Dora adventure places such as Crocodile Lake and Spooky Forest.

Photographs also make great decorations, especially if you laminate them. You can take annual pictures of your family in the sukkah and then display them chronologically. This can be a wonderful way to record the growth of your family while preserving special memories of time spent together.

During the year, Sukkah decorations can be kept in a special "Sukkah Chest" to be opened only at decorating time. Over the years, your family will accumulate a unique collection of decorating memorabilia.

Dwelling in the Sukkah

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Sarah Gershman

Sarah Gershman is a Teaching Fellow at the Partnership for Jewish Living and Learning in Rockville, MD. Sarah is the president of Green Room Speakers.