I am a firm believer Christian kids should learn about the Jewish holidays in the Old Testament. In part, because they give kids a better understanding of the culture of the people in Bible times. More importantly, these holidays remind us how much God has done for us and how these holidays all point to Jesus.
It’s important for our children to understand God has always had a plan for all of mankind. From the moment Adam and Eve introduced sin into the world and caused the perfect creation to fall, God had a plan to send His son to redeem it. They need to understand the Old Testament is more than just a collection of interesting stories. It is about the world’s need for a Messiah and the preparations for him to come.
Sukkot is a great Jewish holiday to introduce to children. It is comparable to our Thanksgiving on one level. In many ways though, it is much more than that. Sukkot is a celebration of the fall harvest. In Israel this was the fruit harvest. Sukkot is known by most Christians as the Feast of the Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths or just The Feast. Originally for seven days (now eight) the Jewish people moved out of their houses and lived in special booths they built. These booths or hut type structures had from two to four walls. The roof was covered in living things like branches. The branches were spread to cover people from the sun during the day, but so they could see the stars at night. (There are actually Sukkot booth kits and lulav bundles you can purchase, but to me they are a little pricy unless you want to do this every year.)
Each night in the booth, the stories of the Exodus and the Israelites in the Wilderness are retold. The emphasis is on how God cared for His people. As part of the celebration, the priest poured a special water out near the altar – at first in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. It was such a special celebration that it was one of the three holidays when everyone was to return to Jerusalem to celebrate them.
As Christians, the ties to Jesus are so obvious. God is faithful and keeps His promises is an ongoing theme of Sukkot. The most important promise God ever made to mankind was that He would send the Messiah to redeem us from our sins. The water poured out in the Temple was a foreshadowing of Jesus whom we know as the Living Water. This Living Water was poured out in sacrifice for our sins.
Sukkot is fun to celebrate with your children. Help your kids construct a booth in your backyard. It doesn’t have to be fancy – just large enough for your family to sit or lie in and look up at the stars. (Tip from several attempts at this. Booths are easier to build if you use one wall of your house or other building as the main back wall of your booth.) In the U.S. apples are the major fruit harvested in the fall. Bring dinner outside and eat it in your booth. Include some apples. Tell your kids the stories from Exodus as you sit in your booth.
Explain to your children the concept of God’s plan for the Messiah and how this holiday pointed the Jewish people towards Jesus. Tell your children the stories of the life of Jesus as you look up at the stars in the sky. Spend time in prayer thanking God for His many blessings, but especially for Jesus. If you want to be truly authentic, you can spend time researching the other aspects of celebrating Sukkot, including decorating the booth and creating a lulav which is waved every night to represent God’s omnipresence (Lev. 23:40).
Finally, explain to your children that just like Sukkot was a celebration of the final harvest, Jesus will one day return to earth to gather the final harvest of His people and take them to live with Him in Heaven. The Bible is a wonderful living book of God’s Words and Plan interwoven in amazing ways if you take time to look at the big picture. Sharing the Jewish holidays with your kids will help them begin to see and understand this amazing tapestry.
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