Dwelling in Sukkah: The Origins, Traditions and Symbolism of Sukkot

jewish symbols and foods of sukkot holiday

Sukkot is one of the most important Jewish holidays. It celebrates the fall harvest and commemorates the time Jews spent in the desert while on the road to the Land of Israel.  

Since this 40-year-long journey is a highly important part of Jewish history, celebrating it is a beautiful tradition. Let’s take a deeper dive into Sukkot, Sukkah, and other wonderful aspects of this holiday.

The History of Sukkot

In Hebrew, “Sukkot” means “huts”. It’s a plural form of “Sukkha,” which, you guessed it, is a “hut.” The holiday is also known as the Feast of Tabernacles. It’s one of the three pilgrimage festivals, along with Passover and Shavuot.

Sukkot commemorates the time when the Israelites wandered in the desert after their liberation from slavery. During this journey, they lived in dwellings called sukkahs. These temporary structures were made of natural materials, such as branches and leaves.

Throughout history, Sukkot has evolved and gained additional meanings. It became associated with the agricultural harvest that marked the end of the harvest season in ancient Israel. People would gather food and bring offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem.

When is Sukkot Celebrated?

The celebration begins on the 15th of Tishrei. Tishrei is the first month of the Jewish calendar. So, Sukkot takes place 15 days after Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and 5 days after Yom Kippur (Atonement Day).

Since the Jewish calendar is lunisolar, the dates change every year.  Usually, the holiday takes place in September or October of the Gregorian calendar.

Symbols of Sukkot

Sukkot is full of symbolism. The key symbols that accompany the celebration include:

  • Sukkah – a temporary hut made of natural materials
  • Lulav – a palm branch representing the spine of the Jewish community, symbolizing uprightness and unity
  • Etrog – a citron fruit representing the heart of the Jewish community, symbolizing the importance of the inner spiritual qualities
  • Hadas – myrtle branches representing the eyes of the Jewish community, symbolizing beauty and fragrance
  • Aravah – willow branches representing the lips of the Jewish community, symbolizing prayer and praise.

Lulav, Etrog, Hadas, and Aravah are also called the four species (or kinds) of Sukkot. The descriptions and symbolism have changed over time and often vary from one community to another.

How to Celebrate Sukkot

The Sukkot celebration involves staying in the Sukkah for as long as possible, waving the four species, studying the Torah, and saying prayers.  While it’s not always possible to build a real sukkah outdoors, some Jews choose to create a mini hut at home.

Sukkot is a festive holiday that also involves eating tasty meals. The common Sukkot dishes are:

  • Challah – braided bread that symbolizes the cycle of life and the harvest season
  • Fruits and vegetables – to celebrate the fall harvest
  • Etrog – the citron fruit, which is one of the four species
  • Stuffed foods – cabbage rolls, stuffed peppers, and stuffed grape leaves that symbolize abundance
  • Dairy dishes – noodle kugel, cheesecake, and blintzes
  • Honey – represents the hope for a sweet and fruitful year ahead

Of course, dietary preferences and traditions can vary from community to community and from family to family. But one thing that brings everyone together is the abundance of delectable dishes and the festive mood that comes with them.

Celebrate Sukkot with Tasty Kosher Ingredients

A tasty meal is the key part of any Jewish holiday, and Sukkot is hardly an exception. To prepare a culinary masterpiece that supercharges your celebration, you need the right ingredients.

At Sarah’s Tent kosher grocery store, you can find all the food you need to make your Sukkot meal truly wonderful. The celebration is right around the corner, so start shopping today!

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