Sukkot is one of the three holidays on which Jews from all over Israel would make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Jerusalem, along with Passover and Shavuot. The Sukkah, tabernacle or hut, serves multiple purposes. 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 remind is of the temporary and migratory dwellings in which we lived in the desert. Every year we are forced to leave the comfort of our homes and sleep in the Sukkah, as a reminder not to get too attached to physical things. Some of the major things we do on Sukkot are decorating the tabernacle with Sukkah decorations, waving the lulav and etrog and more.
The first thing we do on Sukkot is constructing the Sukkah. Many people build Sukkot in their backyards while others help their synagogues by building them in the synagogue-territory. In Jerusalem, many have the custom of having a Sukkah contest, in which neighbors will amicably compete with each other over who builds the nicest, most decorated Sukkah.
When building a Sukkah, you need to keep a few things in mind that could make or break the Sukkah’s kosher status. One of those things is the schach, the roof covering. The roof has to be made of something that grew out of the earth, but is no longer attached to it, such as bamboo leaves. If you are shopping around for a schach you will find bamboo leaves, palm leaves, pine branches and more.
If you do not have the tools, skills or knowledge to build your own Sukkah from scratch, you can go as far as buying and entire Sukkah kit. These come with bars, wall bases, and even door bells! If you do not wish to buy an entire kit, Judaica and other stores also offer single parts, like walls bases. there are wall bases made of plywood, canvas sheets, mat-looking bases, and more. When you are done building you Sukkah, and you have made sure it is kosher, you can proceed to decorate it.
If you have children, you should give them the honor of decorating the Sukkah as much as they can. Anything goes; drawings, quotes, pictures. Whatever they make will be great for decorations. In case were blessed with many talents but artistry is not one of them, you can purchase Sukkah decorations at any Judaica store, especially around Sukkot time. You have apple and vine hangings, clusters of pomegranates, posters of Jerusalem, the four species garland Sukkah decorations, and more.
One of the most important things to make sure you have the four species and that they are all kosher. The four species, Arba’at Haminim, consist of the Lulav, Hadass, Aravah and Etrog. The waving of the species is a commandment from the Torah. Many people like to purchase fancy etrog boxes. Etrog boxes can be made of silver, wood and more. Buying a nice Etrog box certainly is not mandatory, but it is yet another way to increase the festive ambiance and honor the Sukkot holiday.