In this little post, I want to give you some simple ideas for celebrating Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) with your family at home.
Many people choose to gather with other believers for the week, camping together or staying at conference centers. Others have local congregations or synagogues with whom they can participate. A few others are able to travel to Jerusalem, where the festivities are more similar to how they will be someday when all nations go up each year for Sukkot (Zechariah 14:16-19).
However, many families choose to stay close to home. Do the Scriptures give any guidance on how we can celebrate? Look up these verses, and on a sheet of paper, make a list of ideas you get.
- Leviticus 23:33-44
- Deuteronomy 14:22-27
- Deuteronomy 16:13-17
- Nehemiah 8
- John 7
- If possible, assemble with other believers. Maybe that will just be your own family, but year by year, you’ll likely find others to add to this number.
- Do no “customary work” (NKJV) on either the 1st day or the 8th day. This is referring to your income-producing, regular work, not to preparing food or decorating for the Feast.
- Offerings: We cannot offer sacrifices because the Temple was destroyed, but prayerfully consider giving gifts to those who minister in the Word, to widows, to orphans, and to the poor, especially to help them participate in a wonderful Feast with their own families. In the Torah, we are commanded to give a tenth of all our “increase” at the Feasts of Unleavened Bread, Shavuot, and Sukkot.
- Take tree boughs, fruit, branches, and other plants, and use them to make your sukkah, to decorate, and to wave as you dance and rejoice before YHVH.
- Rejoice all seven days! It is a command to rejoice during this Feast. Sometimes when our hearts are commanded to do something, we suddenly find it difficult. When my moods don’t match the command, it’s okay to pray and ask for His help!
- To help you in your rejoicing, the Torah tells us to eat good food, have delicious drinks, and to purchase “whatever your heart desires.” Gifts, candies and sweets, and favorite foods make this Feast the highlight of the year! Share gifts (especially of food) with others, too.
- Build a sukkah (booth, or temporary dwelling), or if you can’t, use a tent or anything you have around the yard to make a simple shelter. The command to dwell in the sukkah is only for native-born Israelites, but it is still wonderful to spend as much time as your local weather permits inside your sukkah.
- Spend time reading and discussing the Torah. This is seen in Nehemiah 8, and traditionally, it’s emphasized on the last day of Sukkot. It is also traditional to read the last chapter of Deuteronomy and the first chapter of Genesis, and then to start reading through the Torah with your children over the course of the next year, using the Torah portions that we have here on our website, for example. Use the descriptions in Psalm 19 for ideas on ways to celebrate the value of the Torah (gold, honey, etc.).
- If Yeshua was born during the Feast of Tabernacles (and many believe it’s highly likely, because John 1:14 says he “tabernacled” among us), then this is a good time of year to sing songs about His birth and to read about it in Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1-2.
The following ideas and traditions are simply that: traditions. YHVH’s feasts are not a burden but a delight, so keep in mind the ages of your children, your budget, your energy levels, and your location. Ask the Father to help you rejoice in this feasts without feeling overwhelmed by details and schedules.
Make a sukkah.
- How to build a “kosher” sukkah — http://www.bethimmanuel.org/articles/kosher-sukkah
- Tent-style sukkah ideas on Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/mamamaggy/feast-of-tabernacles/
Use local fruits and vegetables to decorate, or try to use species of plants from the land of Israel.
Use branches for the roof of your Sukkah. Even if you have a tent, try to add fresh greenery.
Have lots of candles, lanterns, white lights. (Be careful of fire hazards! Have a fire extinguisher handy.)
Put a table in your sukkah, and make it beautiful. Eat as many meals here as possible.
Let your children decorate with posters, murals, Scripture verses, flowers, paper chains, etc.
- Table decoration ideas – http://www.twoityourself.com/2013/09/fall-table-decorations-on-burlap-runner.html
- Sukkah decorating ideas – http://www.creativejewishmom.com/holiday-succah-decor/
- Coloring pages – http://kosheronabudget.com/10-sukkot-simchat-torah-coloring-pages/
- How to Set Apart a Holy Day (comparing it to how many of us used to celebrate Christmas) – http://www.alittleperspective.com/christmas-and-sabbath-keeping-or-how-to-set-apart-a-holy-day/
Great rejoicing is the command! In my mind, this means good music, good food, and good friends.
- Search for Messianic and Davidic dancing videos on YouTube. Circle and folk dances are very similar.
- Make a playlist of your favorite songs. If you’ll have guests, ask what their favorite songs are, too.
- Basic Davidic dance steps — http://choreography.homestead.com/davidic1.html
Thanksgiving meal – We love having a traditional meal that showcases foods that are abundant now, such as what you might serve at Thanksgiving. Ask all your family members what their favorite foods are!
Play “Christmas” music about Yeshua. Have a sing-along. Without involving graven images or pagan traditions, teach your children about His birth and how His birth fulfilled prophecy to show He was our Messiah and Savior. Rejoice!
The Middle Days
Weather permitting, spend as much time as possible in your sukkah. Remind your children what it must have been like for the Israelites to live in tents in the wilderness for forty years.
Sneak out early in the morning for a beautiful sunrise and a simple breakfast together.
Look at the stars! Read Psalm 8 together.
Put table games and musical instruments in your Sukkah.
Plan simple crafts for rainy days.
Munch on apples and caramel sauce or honey.
Sleep outside if possible, maybe one night, but more if you can.
- Camping Hacks – https://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/camping-hacks-that-are-borderline-genius
- Easy Camping Recipes – http://www.clipzine.me/u/zine/81258002668798771543/EASY-Camping-Recipes
Give gifts to your children, or spend money on activities that will make special memories with your family.
Take family pictures.
Visit the sukkot of your friends! This is so fun! When people come to visit your sukkah, serve a plate of cheese slices, olives, finger snacks, and simple desserts, as well as refreshing drinks in little cups. Give the children a bag of candy to take home. You could even have a “progressive dinner” with your friends, going from one sukkah to the next, eating one course of the meal at a time.
Day 8 (Shmini Atzeret) and Simchat Torah
This is the Great Day, the Last Day of the Feast. Make your rejoicing doubly festive!
Simchat Torah – Since the Torah is like honey, it’s traditional to eat lots of candy and give sweet things to the children.
- Candy Torah scrolls – http://www.reformjudaism.org/candy-torah-scrolls
Book recommendation: Celebrate the Feasts, by Martha Zimmerman — I don’t agree with absolutely every tradition, and I don’t think every explanation of Jewish tradition is perfectly accurate. However, I love her emphasis on the Messiah and Scripture.
Family Pictures from Previous Years
(click to see larger)