The Feast of Tabernacles, more commonly known as "Sukkot," is a weeklong Jewish holiday that occurs every fall. In addition to being a harvest festival, Sukkot also commemorates the 40 years that the Israelites wandered in the desert after leaving Egypt. Traditional Jews build a "Sukkah," a temporary hut with a leafy or bamboo roof, to symbolise the mobile shelters used by the Jews in the desert and remind themselves of God's protection over people. A happy holiday, Sukkot is a wonderful time for meaningful and instructive games for children.
Decorate a Sukkah
Judaism encourages people to make their Sukkah a beautiful place to eat, sleep, study and play. Kids can help make decorations for the Sukkah by colouring pictures and then covering them in plastic or laminating them to protect the paper from rain. Paper chains are also a favourite, and easy, decoration for children to assemble, but it is preferable to use plastic, foam, aluminium foil or other waterproof materials. Bring your children to a craft store to pick out waterproof flowers, shells and doo-dads that can be glued together or strung along the roof or walls of the sukkah, and have them hold down the ladder while you hang their decorations.
If many families in your congregation are building Sukkahs, a fun and traditional social activity for children is to "hop" from one Sukkah to the next, walking to the Sukkah of each neighbour to admire the pretty decorations and eat treats. Make sure that each host family provides a different snack, plenty of drinks, and a short activity, like playing pin-the-yarmulke-on-the-rabbi or learning a funny song.
Sleep in a Sukkah
Eating and sleeping in a Sukkah are important elements of the holiday. When weather permits, most children love the adventure of taking a sleeping bag or cot outside and sleeping under the Sukkah's leafy roof, especially if a parent or sibling joins them. If you live in a warm climate, mosquito netting helps prevent itchy bites in the morning.
Cooking, Puzzles, and Word Games
Many regular activities can be tweaked to become Sukkot games. For example, you can make a "Memory" game by creating (or having your child create) cards with different elements of the holiday, such as lulav (a branch of a palm tree, often depicted with myrtle and willow), etrog (a citron), special prayers and candles. You can also have your child help to make your family's traditional holiday foods or make word-find puzzles. Many educational websites provide free Sukkot-themed jigsaw puzzles, recipes and colouring pages you can print out (see Resources).