The Sukkot period is a time to remember the Jewish people’s wandering in the desert for 40 years following their exodus from Egypt, according to Jewish teachings. It is also a time to celebrate the grape harvest. Some sources claim that Sukkot lasts for about seven days while others state that it is an eight-day festival. The seventh day of Sukkot is known as Hoshana Rabbah while the eighth day is known as Shmini Atzeret and the day after is called Simchat Torah.
Sukkot is both an agricultural festival marking the end of the harvest in Israel and a religious observance commemorating God's protection of the Israelites during their escape from Egypt. As a celebration of God's love, it is considered the most joyous festival of the Jewish year.
One of the central customs during Sukkot is to dwell in a sukkah, a temporary hut topped with branches. Jewish people are expected not to consume any food or drink outside of the sukkah during the festival period, and some also spend the nights there.
An important Sukkot symbol is the sukkah. This is a temporary structure with a roof made of sechach or s'chach, which is raw, unfinished plant material, such as palm branches, bamboo poles, reeds or even corn stalks.
The “four species” are also important symbols of Sukkot and represent the blessings of nature. These are lulav (a green, closed frond of a date palm tree), hadass (twigs and leaves from a myrtle tree), aravah (twigs and leaves from a willow tree) and etrog (a lemon-like fruit of the citron tree).
Each day of the Sukkot period, with the exception of the Sabbath, involves the ritual of the Four Kinds or Four Species. In the ritual, a blessing is recited while holding 4 types of plants: lulav (a green, closed frond of a date palm tree), hadass (twigs and leaves from a myrtle tree), aravah (twigs and leaves from a willow tree), and etrog (a lemon-like fruit of the citron tree). In Jewish culture, each plant symbolizes a different type of Jew, categorized by their level of Torah knowledge and adherence. During the ritual, the plants are ceremoniously brought together to symbolize Jewish unity and waved in six directions: south, north, east, up, down, and west.
Finally,the first day of Sukkot is a public holiday in Israel. It is not a nationwide public holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom or the United States. However, many Jewish businesses, schools and organizations may be closed or offer a reduced level of service.
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