Posted by Nat Bernstein
Sukkot is one of my mother’s favorite holidays. She considers it more or less the Jewish version of Christmas: we decorate our sukkah like a yuletide tree—our skhkakh is usually pine boughs, too!—and much like our neighbors string up twinkle lights the day after Thanksgiving, we have an unofficial fixed sukkah-building date the day after Yom Kippur. I guess the parallel mostly ends there, but it’s reason enough to create a list of decorations to make your snazziest sukkah yet!
Item 1: Paper Garlands
If your childhood was anything like mine, you, too, spent hours with the stapler and strips of construction paper, creating a multi-colored chain that your family’s sukkah simply could not do without. I am happy to share with you all that I have since moved on to recycled paper strips, courtesy of The Scrapbox, and continue to staple that ghastly garland for my parents’ sukkah—naturally, I realize this a task most children eschew after the third or fourth grade. Oh well.
Those of you without a faithful legion of paper chain makers—or with very sophisticated ones—might enjoy a very bookish twist on the traditional Jewish American sukkah decorating standard:
Item 2: Lighting
Personally, I love taking advantage of the allowance for transferring flames on this holiday above all others—candlelight dinner under the stars is the best romantic redundancy there is. Hang glass lanterns in your sukkah like it’s a Moroccan bazaar and fire up the tea lights just before your guests arrive for the evening:
How about some lovely wind chimes to fill the night air?
Item 3: Honey
The tradition of drizzling honey over (everything, but namely) round challahs continues through Sukkot, so go on and indulge that sweet tooth! Our family hosts an apples and honey tasting event in the sukkah every year, and the reigning favorites are fujis and Green Toe Gardens’ wild honey from natural hives in backyards, schools, and community gardens of Detroit. Yes, Detroit. Check them out!
Did you know you can also get multi-colored honey sticks! And definitely take a gander at these thoughtful suggestions for vegan honey alternatives—there are some great surprises on the list!
Traditionally, every Jew is obliged to obtain their own set of the Four Species: a palm heart, myrtle and willow leaves, and citron. It’s best to contact your local rabbi for these items, but if you’re more interested in the spirit—or essence, if you will—of these plants, I love the idea of this Four Species essential oils set:
And here a couple small representatives of arbaat haminim with which to adorn yourself:
Item 5: Kohelet
Since we’re on jewelry already, some charming Ecclesiastical pieces:
Item 6: Stay Warm!
It can get brisk outside in mid-October. If you’re planning to spend lengthier periods in the sukkah, make sure to dress appropriately for the weather—especially in the evenings!
Bare legs can be brutal in the cold. Keep them wrapped in poetry!
Need something a little more heavy-duty? I’m really into this cape.
But if you’re looking for a more traditional piece of outerwear, this jacket is a pretty chic variation:
Item 7: Feast
One time I made pumpkin soup for Sukkot and served it in hand-hollowed sugar pumpkins baked soft enough to scoop the meat out of. Everyone thought it was delicious—including my dog, who all but swallowed an unsupervised setting and was subsequently sick for two days. Poor dog.
So you understand why I think these ceramic “bakers” are pretty nifty:
Pomegranates, coasters, and a puzzle? This is the kind of tableware I dream about:
Of course, you’ll need to serve food to make it a meal. Looking for some culinary inspiration? Here are some JBC staff favorite cookbooks for autumn recipes:
Also, apparently fried maple leaves is a thing now? Perfect for the season.
Above all, always make your guests—ushpizin and mortal—feel welcome: