Sukkot, also known as Feast of Tabernacles, is a Jewish biblical holiday commemorated on the 15th of the month of Tishrei. In the Gregorian calendar, this falls between late September and late October. Sukkot is an agricultural celebration, to give thanks for the gathering of the harvest. The week-long holiday also commemorates God's protection of the people of Israel when they left Egypt. Sukkot represents a joyful celebration in the Jewish religion and is one of the three pilgrimage festivals.
Sukkot is not a public holiday, so businesses and schools remain open.
Sukkot is both a historical and agricultural holiday. This is because it celebrates the 40-year period when Jewish people wandered across the desert after leaving Egypt when God told Moses to make the people build booths out of palm branches and tree boughs, and live in them for seven days. Sukkot is also an agricultural holiday because it is a harvest festival, where people celebrate the bounty of the Earth. This is why Sukkot is also known by some as the Festival of Ingathering.
Sukkot Customs and Traditions
The most important custom of Sukkot is the building of a sukkah. 'Sukkah' is a Hebrew word that means booth or hut, the sukkah can be built with wood, sheets, canvas, or aluminum, as long as the roof is made with organic materials such as tree branches, leaves, or palms. During the week of Sukkot, Jews should spend as much time as possible in their sukkahs, and are required to have all their meals there.
The inside of the sukkah should be decorated and blessed with the four species, these are four plants mentioned in Leviticus: palm branch, willow branch, citrus, and myrtle.
There is a prayer on every day of Sukkot, apart from the Shabbat, known as Hallel. The psalms are recited while holding the four species.
The seventh day of Sukkot is Hoshanah Rabbah, the day where the fates of the Jewish people for the year and finalized.
During Sukkot, the proper greeting to exchange with others to wish them a Happy Sukkot is "Chag Sameach!".
In the United States, there are two more days of celebration after Sukkot: Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. On these days there is a big celebration in the synagogue, with dancing and singing.
How Sukkot is Observed
After building their sukkahs, many families decorate them with dry squash and corn, which are sometimes used for Halloween and Thanksgiving afterward.
On the last day of Sukkot, Hoshanah Rabbah, there is a special service at the synagogue, where the rolls of the Torah are taken out, and people take seven turns around them while holding the four species.