The Jewish festival of Sukkot, often referred to as 'Chag Ha-Asif', 'Festival of Ingathering' or 'Feast of Tabernacles' is known for the rejoicing and celebrating life. It has both historical and agricultural origins and will be observed from 16- 23 October 2016.
Sukkot comes five days after Yom Kippur, and is the last of the Shalosh R'galim– the three major festivals in Judaism which are Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Weeks or Pentecost), and Sukkot (Tabernacles, Tents or Booths). Sukkot is observed as a way of commemorating the 40 year period during which the children of Israel were released from slavery and began the Exodus from Egypt. As they wandered through the desert to find their new homeland, they lived in temporary shelters. Serving as a reminder of this, Jewish households rebuild these temporarily shelters, which are called sukkahs and are to be used as much as possible during the Sukkot celebrations. The word 'Sukkot' translates as 'booths', referring to the temporary dwellings that Jews are commanded to live in during this holiday in memory of the period of wandering.
A sukkah can be made out of any material, such as wood or metal, providing that the roof is made of organic material, known as s'chach. Many use palm branches and leaves. The interior of the sukkah must be decorated with four plants or 'species' which are used to celebrate the harvest. These are etrog– a citrus fruit, a lulav– a palm branch, a brava– a form of willow branch and a hadas, which is a branch from a myrtle tree. Sukkah's are often decorated with fruit and vegetables, which hang from the ceiling. The four plants are bound together and are waved in all directions (North, South, East and West) during the Hallel prayer, to symbolise that God can be found everywhere and not just in one place. Throughout Sukkot, special prayers are read inside the sukkah each day and all meals are to be eaten there.