How can we make the week of dwelling in the sukkah as much fun as building and decorating it can be?
Build Together Then Create New Memories Together
My most abiding Jewish childhood memory took place during Sukkot. I recall with joy being with my parents as they helped build the sukkah at Congregation Shalom in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Together we measured and sawed; we hammered and nailed. It took all day, and everyone had fun.
While writing our book, Jewish Spiritual Parenting (Jewish Lights Publishing), my wife Michelle November and I realized that many of our own family’s fond memories include sukkah building with three generations. Grandparents join us in the backyard. None of us is particularly handy with tools, yet we get the job done, creating and adorning the temporary dwelling. The frame is constructed, the palm fronds affixed on top, and the beautification occurs as each family member digs into the boxed collection of Sukkot decorations and hangs fall-colored fabric leaves, faux fruit, and dried flowers.
Do It in the Sukkah: Build Family, Community and Peace-of-Mind
Then the real fun began. Sukkah building bonded our mishpacha together, reinforcing a fun-centric perspective on Jewish life, and providing unadulterated fun! Dwelling in the sukkah connected our guests into community. Sitting alone in the sukkah, doing our favorite things, calmed the soul and brought peace of mind. Besides eating and sleeping in the sukkah, what other sukkah activities can we do?
Try This: Choose Among 70+ Fun-Filled Activities
- Shake the lulav and etrog with children.
- Just sit and enjoy the warmth of the day, the sound of birds singing, the sun shining on the home-made decorations, and be happy
- Sip hot cider. (I love in Michigan; Sukkot is often chilly.)
- Eat Hungarian fish soup – a roadside eat outside dish in Hungary.
- Argue Israel’s politics
- Play guitar
- Watch the birds at our feeder nearby
- Make friends with the neighbor’s cat who seems to like hanging out in the sukkah.
- Have friends over for a beer… then nap
- Read and drink tea
- Make decorations
- Study Talmud
- Make edible sukkah a with kids and adults of all ages
- Study Torah
- Hang out with friends and catch up
- Share a pre-Shabbat snack
- Watch movies
- Drink scotch and eat chocolate
- Have a dance party
- Wine and Cheese Tasting with friends
- Welcome friends.
- Color and do crafts with friends…that we can use to decorate the sukkah
- Learn Rambam Yomi (Daily Rambam Chapter)
- Entertain guests, Jews and Palestinians.
- Go to silly themed sukkah events: Hookah in the Sukkah. Beer in the Booth. Pizza in the Hut. Sushi in the Sukkah.
- Play scrabble
- Swat mosquitoes
- Watch the lunar eclipse
- Do yoga
- Look at all the decorations
- Breath. Contemplate. Sigh.
- Meet your weekly chevruta partner and study in the sukkah
- Hold book club meetings
- Invite the synagogue youth group for lasagna
- In a communal sukkah (owned by our Manhattan coop), we host a sukkah party for all the building’s shareholders, and it is the highlight of the holiday for me as it’s a real opportunity to welcome my non-Jewish neighbors to relax and share a bite to eat in the sukkah that also belongs to them. There are few better ways to enrich a neighborhood community than to build a temporary space and invite your neighbors in to play, socialize and relax together.
- We watched a football game in the sukkah while we decorated it – “hut hut hut”
- Look up through the schach at the sky and contemplate the vastness of the universe and our place in it
- Hold up an umbrella in it to keep the rain off you
- Mah Jong
- Tell stories
- Study Kohelet
- Tell people all about the ushpizin I put up this year.
- Teach kids at religious school and tell them about it.
- Do art projects (as long as it’s not too windy)
- Hang out and just be.
- Stay off wifi
- Drink really good tequila with good friends
- Drink wine and shake, shake, shake…shake your lulav!
- Jam with friends on guitar
- Play I-Spy. I hang up toys in the ceiling of the sukkah hidden in the decorations, and when the kids come in, they have to find them.
- Have a baby naming
- Enjoy Yom Tov (holy day) morning breakfast
- Explain your decorations to guests
- Shake the lulav and etrog
- Write new ushpizin (lists of guests, historical/biblical/modern, to invite to your sukkah)
- Race vehicles made from sukkah decoration fruit
- Play board games
- Teach children how to hold and wave the lulav and etrog.
- Have a progressive dinner with the requirement to participate that you have to have a sukkah
- Have a contest to bring to sukkah new vegetables that weren’t routinely available as little as 10 years ago
- Eat unique dishes made from a newly identified vegetable (shehecheyanu dinner moment)
- Enjoy some good bourbon
- Tell Jewish ghost stories
- Savor a cup of coffee and delicious ruggelah
- Make Havdala
Oh, and one R-rated idea
Oh, and it’s a mitzvah to love your lover on a holy day. So enjoy that too! (But probably not in the communal sukkah.)
What’s your favorite Sukkah activity? Help us add to our list…
Contact me through this blog to add your own ideas.
Special Thanks for Sharing Favorite Ideas:
Joel Abramson, Ruth Adar, Pamela Barkley, Bernhardt, Barbara Leah Block, Barry Block, Karen Bodney-Halasz, Joanna Brichetto, Bill Bronstein, Sarah Burns, Shariee Calderone, EJ Cohen, Geoffrey Dennis, Heather Erez, Prima Edizione Fiat, Jonathan Fisch, Jonathan Freund, Elaine Rose Glickman, Ash Gray, Beth Hamon, Aileen Heiman, Leah Herzog, Steph Hollander, Marc D Israel, Shoshana Jackson, Marisa Elana James, Steve Kerbel, Jessie Kerr-Whitt, Elisa Koppel, Howard Laibson, Sari Laufer, Hope Levav, Lori Lippitz, Eric Mendelsohn, Joseph B. Meszler, Rachel Meytin, Debi Swedelson Mishael, Fred Natkin, David Novak, Michelle November, Aviva Perlman, Daniel Plotkin, Candace Plotsker-Herman, Victoria Ritter, Andi Rosenthal, Shari Herman Rothstein, Sheryl Sacharoff, Bettina Schwarzman, Lori Ann Schulman, Tamara Lawson Schuster, Joshua Segal, Benjamin Sharff, Sara Shapiro-Plevan, Todd Silverman, Marcy Stieglitz, Kathryn Teale, Paula Tucker, Zahava Tzipora, Becca Weiner, Reuven Werber, Ira Wise, Ahuva Zaches, Leah Zigmond, Jennifer Rudick Zunikoff.
For more ideas about celebrating Sukkot and/or bringing Jewish spirituality into your and your family’s life, check out our book, Jewish Spiritual Parenting.