Sukkot is one of my favorite Jewish Holidays, and it is wonderful and fun for kids. You get to build a club house and decorate it with all of your awesome art and crayon creations. You can eat, play, and sing in it, and, if you are lucky, camp out under the stars.
From a farmer’s perspective, the holiday makes lots of sense. Sukkot falls during the peak of the fall harvest. I find it very natural to feel a direct connection to our ancestors who built sukkot long ago. And from a mother’s perspective, shifting meals outside is a welcome relief because there is no need to pick up all of the crumbs that fall to the ground.
Sounds a little too perfect, right? What’s the catch? For us, it’s a bit unusual. Over the past year, my 4-year-old has shown his first real signs of Christmas envy. Every once in a while, he will start wistfully talking about candy canes, ornaments, and, of course, Christmas trees. (His main exposure has been friends talking about it at preschool, and the glimmering trees we have stumbled upon here and there.)
Whenever he talks longingly about Christmas, it sends me into a bit of a panic. How will we manage to impart a solid, joyful Jewish identity to our children, with all of its complexity, hard questions, and devastating history — when shimmery, happy, easy going Christmas seems to be hidden around every corner?
In the midst of one somewhat desperate Jewish sales pitch, I recently found myself saying that during Sukkot, we get to decorate an entire hut–not just one tree.
“You mean with pretty lights and candy canes?” He asked. “That’s one way to decorate,” I said.
We’re in the process of building our sukkah now. All of the pieces from the branches for the frame to the corn stalks on top will come from our farm. And once it is built, it will be time to decorate.
I am not sure I will be able to find candy canes this time of year (plus I don’t allow my children to eat artificial colors), but I think I will look for some healthy, natural treats to hang from the ceiling. And if we make some decorations, I guess we can call them sukkah ornaments, because technically they are.
I’m doing my best to make sure that my children have a fun Sukkot this year. Come Christmas time, we’ll hopefully remember how we played, sang, danced, ate treats, and even got to build and decorate an entire sukkah.
P.S. I would love feedback and thoughts from anyone who has grappled with similar issues.
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