Zman simhateinu, the Season of Our Rejoicing, is here, and for many of us, our
succa is set up and ready to welcome guests.
The first succa was erected
in the wilderness exactly one year after the first Passover when the Israelites
were freed from Egypt, around 1450 BCE.
Now, more than 3,400 years later,
Jews around the world are still building and decorating their succa, inspired by
nature, local customs, culture and personal taste.
Originally observed as
a harvest festival, Succot was a kind of Thanksgiving when the farmers would
celebrate the reaping of the seasonal fruit. The festivities involved building
and living in booths, where seasonal fruits and vegetables were hung to show
gratitude to God for the gifts of nature.
Even if your succa is already
decorated, there is still time and room for additional touches on the ceiling,
walls, table and chairs.
Since the Torah instructs us to create a
temporary structure and regard it as our home, it lends itself easily to various
The season itself presents many decorating ideas,
with a bounty of pumpkins, gourds and seasonal flowers. In the spirit of
rejoicing, inspired by nature¹s abundance, tradition and creativity, here are
some ideas for decorating your succa. Some of these can also be projects for
children. The little ones may need your help, depending on their ages. All the
materials mentioned can be found in arts and crafts, hobby and stationery
THE SKY’S THE LIMIT
Let’s start from the ceiling down, with
hanging decorations. These can include paper lanterns, mobiles and laminated
posters with religious themes.
CLOUDS OF GLORY
As our ancestors wandered
for 40 years through the desert after their exodus from Egypt and prior to their
entry into the Holy Land, miraculous “clouds of glory” hovered over them,
shielding them from the dangers and discomforts of the desert.
your own clouds, use white construction paper, available in sheets or pads. For
a more “heavenly” touch, buy iridescent paper or sprinkle with glitter. Draw the
cloud and cut around the shape. Draw a mirror image of the cloud. Glue the back
sides together and hang with nylon wire. To make soft, fluffy clouds, use
absorbent cotton or cotton balls, thread them together with nylon wire and hang.
Stars through the s’chach The Talmud says that one should not place too many
branches on top of the succa so that the larger stars are still visible in the
To make your own heavenly bodies, draw several stars of
different sizes on cardboard and cut them out. Trace the stars on silver
metallic paper and cut them out. Each star will need a matching back. Glue the
backs together, make a hole at the top and hang them with short piece of nylon
wire as close as possible to the s’chach so they look like stars peeping through
Strings of Shana Tova cards Punch a hole at the top of each
New Year card you have received, string them together with nylon wire, pretty
yarn or colorful ribbon and hang them across the ceiling of the
You can also clip them to the yarn or ribbon with colorful
Paper chains Vary the paper chains with a combination of
solid and patterned paper, metallic paper or bits of wrapping paper. Cut strips
of paper in different sizes and colors. Staple each strip closed in a chain
formation. Punch a hole at the end of each chain, thread together and hang
across the succa ceiling.
Working our way down, the
walls are perfect for hanging pictures, as well as fruit and other ornaments.
Drawings, photos, banners and posters are suitable for hanging on the walls,
especially if the walls are made of wood or strong fabric.
This is an
opportunity to get the children more involved in the succa and teach them about
our heritage. Introduce them to the ushpizin, the seven supernal guests who come
to visit us in the succa, one for each day of the festival. Guests are an
important part of the Jewish home all year round and are particularly important
on Succot, when we share with the stranger, the poor and the
According to Chabad, “We fill our succa with our earthly guests,
and we host seven supernal guests, the seven founding fathers of the Jewish
people: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. While all seven
ushpizin visit our succa on each of the seven days of Succot, each supernal
guest is specifically associated with one of the festival’s seven days and is
the leading or dominant ushpiza for that day.”
Some communities prepare a
specially decorated chair for the main guest of each evening. Some celebrants
also invite the wives of the founding fathers or other exemplary Jewish women,
such as Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah and
Ushpizin decorations Have the children draw the ushpizin or other
guests they would like to invite into the succa. You can surprise your guests by
putting photos of them on the succa wall.
AT THE TABLE
tablecloth As a means of artistic expression, let the kids draw on the
White paper tablecloths are available at all party
Give the children crayons and magic markers and let them draw
seasonal fruits and vegetables, the etrog and lulav, ushpizin, etc. A clear
plastic tablecloth, available at any housewares store, will protect their
artwork. It comes in 1.40-cm. width and is sold by the meter. When serving your
meals, use solid color plates so the dishes don’t clash with the
Original place cards If you have small pictures of your guests,
a nice touch is to use them on the table as place cards. Or the kids can affix
colorful stickers on folded cardboard or draw pretty designs beside their
Pumpkin basket centerpiece Use a small pumpkin to house your
Define your basket and handle design with masking
tape, then cut out the two wedges with a sharp paring knife. Remove seeds and
pulp with a scoop. Peel off the masking tape and place a water-saturated block
of floral foam inside the pumpkin (available in blocks from any florist). Insert
the flowers into the foam, creating contrasts in texture and color as you go.
Add some cool water to the foam every day and enjoy your arrangement all week
An edible succa Design a mini succa from edible ingredients. Use
square rice cakes for the walls, pretzels or parsley for the roof, and candy for
decorations on the top. Peanut butter or honey makes ideal glue to hold it all
together. Build the succa on a serving dish because it will break if you move
it. It’s almost too pretty to eat.
To avoid such temptation, you
can have the kids fashion a mini succa using a shoe box as the basic
THE FLOOR IS YOURS
Pull up a pillow When the Israelites
wandered in the desert, they didn’t have tables and chairs. In that spirit, if
you have young guests, dispense with the table and chairs and set cushions down
on the floor. For serving, use trays or low plastic beach style tables covered
with gaily printed cloths. This type of casual seating is ideal for a light meal
or dessert entertaining.
Chair decorations When you use chairs, a lovely
way to welcome your guests is by decorating the back of each chair with ribbons,
hearts, burlap or dried flowers.
Wrap it up Keep the
decorations in a box for next year. The children will enjoy seeing their
handiwork again and will be proud to put them up. To add new items to the mix,
start making next year’s Succot decorations the last week or two of August
before school starts.
The writer is an interior designer and the
proprietor of Toby Designs