2. The holiday lasts 7 days and is then followed by the joint holiday of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah (joint here in Israel that is, outside of Israel each gets its own day), which are generally thought of as part of Sukkot.
3. The word sukkot means "booths" - temporary huts that Jews build outside for the holiday in remembrance of the time our ancestors spent wandering for 40 years in the desert before reaching the promised land. Technically, Jews are commanded to "dwell" in these huts, but in practice most people just eat their meals in them. People build their sukkot in their backyards, on their balconies, or outside communal apartment buildings.
4. Having a ground floor sukkah when you live upstairs means a LOT of shlepping (food, drinks, chairs, tables, etc. up and down.
5. In the US the word Sukkot is often given its Yiddish pronunciation - Sukkos, pronounced to rhyme with "book-us".
6. A sukkah must have at least two and a half walls covered with a material that will not blow away in the wind. Why two and a half walls? Look at the letters in the word "sukkah" (see the graphic in the heading): one letter has four sides, one has three sides and one has two and a half sides. The "walls" of the sukkah do not have to be solid; canvas covering tied or nailed down is acceptable and quite common in the United States. A sukkah may be any size, so long as it is large enough for you to fulfill the commandment of dwelling in it. The roof of the sukkah must be made of material referred to as sekhakh (literally, covering). To fulfill the commandment, sekhakh must be something that grew from the ground and was cut off, such as tree branches, corn stalks, bamboo reeds, sticks, or two-by-fours. Sekhakh must be left loose, not tied together or tied down. Sekhakh must be placed sparsely enough that rain can get in, and preferably sparsely enough that the stars can be seen, but not so sparsely that more than ten inches is open at any point or that there is more light than shade. The sekhakh must be put on last. Note: You may put a water-proof cover over the top of the sukkah when it is raining to protect the contents of the sukkah, but you cannot use it as a sukkah while it is covered and you must remove the cover to fulfill the mitzvah of dwelling in a sukkah.*
7. Here in Israel the sekhakh used is cut palm fronds. Municipalities around the country send their gardening staff out to trim the trees before the holiday, leaving the fronds in piles for people to take to cover their sukkot.
8. People decorate the inside of their sukkot with their children's artwork, tinsel, garlands, and fruit.
9. Arbat HaMinim - The Four Species - While in the sukkah observant Jews say certain prayers to "rejoice to the Lord" while holding what are known as the Four Species. The four species are an etrog (a citron, a lemon-like citrus fruit native to Israel), a palm branch (a lulav in Hebrew), two willow branches (aravot) and three myrtle branches (hadassim). The six branches are bound together and referred to collectively by the name of their largest member, the lulav. The etrog is held separately, often in an ornate silver box. Religious Jews put great store in procuring top quality examples of each species and will reject any that are less than pristine.
10. Each year there is a "Four Species Market" in Jerusalem where people go to buy their lulav and etrog.
11. The first and last days of the holiday are what are called "full holidays" where stores close, people are off from work, etc. The days in between are considered half-holidays with fewer prohibitions and obligations. Many offices and stores open often but work just half-days.
12. Israeli children are off from school for the whole of the holiday.
13. We don't build a sukkah, but we're often invited to the neighbor's for a meal, and my kids contribute most of the Sukkot artwork they bring home to their sukkah, since their own children are all grown now.
* This was taken directly from Judaism 101 - it was too long and involved to try and rewrite correctly. Thanks for the loan of the text.
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