Thanksgiving or the 'harvest festival' is the day where people express gratitude to God for all the great things in life whether small or big. Family members, friends, colleagues and neighbors get together on this day to celebrate and mark the end of the harvest festival. The houses are decorated attractively in the theme of the harvest season to reflect the various moods of Thanksgiving. A delicious, Thanksgiving feast is prepared and shared among all the guests. It is customary for the people who celebrate Thanksgiving, to say 'Grace' and thanks to God, before they begin the feast. Games and other activities are organized and conducted as a part of the Thanksgiving festivities. Thanksgiving has been popularly celebrated in many cultures for several centuries. In Israel, 'Succoth' is the traditional, harvest festival and they celebrate it with great passion, similar to Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving in Israel or Succoth is a major festival and on this day, many ancient customs are followed. Read on to learn more about Thanksgiving in Israel.
Jewish Harvest Festival
'Succoth' is the Jewish Thanksgiving celebrated for 7 days from the 15th day of the Hebrew month of 'Tishri'. This Jewish harvest festival is usually celebrated over the months September and October. This festival has been celebrated for more than 3000 years and is a cheerful occasion to honor the creator for all the magnanimous gifts in life. The 'Succoth' festival can be traced back to ancient times, when the Hebrews travelled to Israel and set up booths there. People lived in these booths, ate food and worshipped to God thanking the God for whatever little they got and enjoyed in life. The farmers especially, lived in a 'Sukkah' during the harvest season and thanked God for the rich harvest every year. A booth is known as a 'Succoth' in Israel and thus, the name 'Succoth' came in to being and was known as the traditional, harvest festival. The 'Succoth' or Jewish festival is also known by other names such as, 'festival of booths', 'feast of tabernacle', 'festival of harvest' and so on.
The Origin Of 'Succoth'
The 'Succoth' is celebrated to remember the healthy harvest of fruits during the ancient times. In olden times, most Jews were farmers or shepherds. Every day in the past, Jews walked from their homes to their crop fields to look after their crops, while crossing the hot desert. During the harvest season, the farmers would build huts or shelters within the fields to avoid wasting time and effort, walking back and forth from their homes to the fields. This way, they took care of their crops very well and earned huge profits. These huts were temporary dwellings for the people of Israel.
Traditions Of Succoth
As part of the 'Succoth' harvest festival, services and processions were held at the synagogues. Special ceremonies to thank and praise the Lord for the harvest are conducted on a daily basis, during 'Succoth' or Thanksgiving. Ancient customs and the story of how the Hebrew ancestors would sing hymns during times of great pain are recounted to the people of Israel as a part of the ceremonies. During the festival, people would carry fruits with them to be reminded of how blessed they are in life. Large lemons called 'etrogs' are carried in their left hands and a handful of leaves known as 'lulav', are carried in their right hands. The major crops and food of the harvest include grapes, pomegranates, figs, dates, olives, barley, wheat and honey.
All the festivities are held inside a 'sukkah'. A 'sukkah' or a booth is built in the gardens, outside the homes of people during this festival. The roof of the booth is made from olive branches and these branches are decorated with fruits and flowers. Three sides of the booth are covered with gold and blue fabric. As per traditions, the meals are consumed in the booths which are decorated with fruits of the harvest. The tradition of sharing food among the family members and praying to the Lord plays a big part of this festival, just like the tradition of feasting in Thanksgiving. The families would also sleep inside the booths for all seven days as a part of ancient customs, thanking the heavens and indulging in merriment.
Thanksgiving or 'Succoth' is a joyous occasion for the people of Israel. This seven-day Israeli Thanksgiving festival marks the celebration of the bountiful harvests. There are several ceremonies conducted at synagogues for thanking God for all his blessings. The feasts, prayers and celebrations are magnificently held inside the decorated sukkahs, mirroring Thanksgiving festivities in the United States.