Sukkot is one of the three holidays on which Jews from all over Israel would make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Jerusalem; the other two are Passover and Shavuot. The Sukkah, tabernacle or hut, serves multiple purposes: for one, it is a yearly reminder of the “Clouds of Glory” that followed and protected us in the desert after we had left Egypt. Another reason we sit in the Sukkah is to remember the impermanent and migrant dwellings in which we lived in the desert for forty years. Aside from procuring the four species, one of the very first things we do in Sukkot is building a sukkah, using the most beautiful sukkah decorations we can find. Indeed, the sukkah decorations are a major part of making the sukkah a beautiful home for an entire week.
The great thing about sukkah decorations is that the decorations can be whatever you want them to be. Some common sukkah decoration ideas include a Bruchim Habaim, Hebrew for welcome, sign; The Ushpizin, the 7 mystical shepherds of the Jewish people who “visit” the sukkah during the 7 day holiday celebration. The Ushpizin are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aharon, and King David; and many more. Sukkah decorations can be colourful paper clips, tin foil, anything your heart desires. For children, sukkah decorations are often the best time of year. Many homemade sukkah decorations can be made by the children of the house. Popcorn chains, paper chains, drawings, favourite New Year’s cards and paintings are some common sukkah decoration ideas that children go crazy for.
It’s always important to remember, while making the Sukkah decorations, is that it might rain. Do not fret, though; you can find instant solutions, like zip lock bags for drawings, cards, and smaller crafts and, clear contact paper for larger sukkah decorations, and more.
Another great idea for sukkah decorations is to take a family picture, frame it, perhaps laminate it to make it water-proof, and hang it at the entrance to the sukkah. Always remember that if you have children, they should be able to take as active a part as they want in making sukkah decorations. This will make them love the holiday even more, which is a God-given commandment in its own right.
The main commandment during the holiday of Sukkot is to live in the temporary hut known as a “Sukkah” for the entire duration of the holiday. The general practice is to live in the Sukkah as one does in his house. This is the reason why Jews eat in the Sukkah and many also sleep and even work in the Sukkah during the holiday. Because of this tradition, it is common for Sukkahs to be brightly decorated. Sukkah decorations include posters, chains of different types, paper and foil fruit, greetings cards and coloured lights.
Posters are very popular Sukkah decorations. The vast majority of these posters are related to Judaism, Jewish History and the Torah. One very common poster is that which depicts the “Ushpizin”, the seven greatest leaders in Jewish history – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aharon and King David. Another common poster is one that has the blessing made over the 4 Species waved during Sukkot as well as the Kiddush blessing made before each of the meals. Other common posters include scenes from the Bible (Tanach), scenes of idyllic Jerusalem, and religious leaders from the past such as Maimonides and Rashi as well as images of modern Israel and the Western Wall.
Another type of decoration that can be found in Sukkahs are chains. While many families make these from paper and many are also school projects that children bring home, there are fancy chains that are also available. These chains usually take one of two forms, either having text or some sort of item. The most common chains with items usually have the Seven Species while those which feature text usually say “Happy Holidays” and “Welcome” in Hebrew, “Chag Sameach” and “Beruchim HaBa’im” in Hebrew.
Coloured lights are a very common Sukkah decoration. These lights are usually the same as those used to decorate houses during the secular holiday season and are strung across the Sukkah in a similar manner to chains. These lights give the Sukkah a festive feel.
Because Sukkot takes place during the fall and is also known as the “Festival of the Harvest” or “Chag Ha-Asif” in Hebrew, many people hang foil and plastic fruit in their Sukkahs, such as applies, grapes and pomegranates. The Seven Species – wheat, barley, dates, figs, pomegranates and dates – are especially popular, although other fruit such as lemons and gourds are also commonly found in Sukkahs.
Sukkot also falls out during the first month of the Jewish calendar, Tishrei and therefore many people hang the different greetings cards they receive from friends and relatives in the Sukkah. These greeting cards can have multiple forms but all contain wishes for a happy, healthy year and an inscription in the Book of Life.