What Makes This Lulav So Southern?

In elementary school, the Jewish holidays were never an issue — I went to a Jewish day school, so school was out for each holiday. But in my public high school, I was the only student who took off for two days of Rosh Hashanah, the first two and last two days of Sukkot and Passover, and both days of Shavuot. Needless to say, my attendance was spotty the first month of my freshman year, when all of the holidays fell on weekdays.

Although some called it bribery, I took to bringing in a homemade treat for Ms. MacGregor, the official attendance recorder for the school; honey cake on Rosh Hashanah, hamentaschen on Purim, chocolate matzah toffee on Passover. Ever since, I have made a point of handcrafting something to share with friends on each holiday.

For Sukkot, the first obvious choice was to make a sukkah. My roommates and I toyed with the idea of turning our incredible 15-foot-diameter backyard trampoline into the bounciest sukkah this country has ever seen. But then we realized we’d have had to walk around with a machete to cut down wild-growing bamboo to use for the schach (sukkah roof), and figured a neighbor would probably send the cops after us. So we nixed that idea.


Then, a couple weeks ago, I was explaining to a friend from Jackson how the lulav and etrog are used on Sukkot celebrations, and he said, “Well, you could probably make your own from plants growing around the area.”

What a great idea! We planned an arboring adventure, and set off to forage for varieties of palm, myrtle, and willow to make a DIY lulav. Here’s what went into my very Southern lulav:

The Dwarf Palmetto that makes up the spine of my DIY lulav differs at the genus-level from the traditional date palm. I picked up the stalk on a walk just outside of New Orleans, where I spent Yom Kippur.

The Crepe Myrtle, ubiquitous in Jackson, differs from the traditional myrtle on the family-level of scientific classification.

And the Willow? Well that one is just right, all the way down to the species.

(My etrog is the only outsourced item of the bunch – it comes all the way from Italy.)

Being able to create this Southern lulav fit in with my DIY holiday crafting-tradition in a great, local and personal way. Shaking it in all directions from down here in Mississippi is even more special this year! Shabbat shalom and happy Sukkot to one and all.

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