Since we are Messianic, many people often ask us when we celebrate the birth of Jesus since we do not celebrate Christmas. Yes, we DO celebrate this momentous event, but we do it during the fall, during the Festival of Tabernacles, or Sukkot. I did not celebrate Christmas with my family growing up, but there are many traditions that I want to create with my own children surrounding the event of Christ’s birth. We spend the festival of Sukkot listening to some of the beautiful classical music that was written to honor Christ’s entry into this realm as the Light of the World. Handel’s Messiah is one of my favorites. We might get strange look from the neighbors as we enter into this season of joy with a weird-looking booth like thing in our backyard, but truly it is one of the most joyful and awesome festivals of the year.
As part of establishing traditions for my children to really enter into the festival of Sukkot, I decided this year to re-create the “nativity scene” as it was most likely experienced historically – in a sukkah, or temporary dwelling that the Israelites were commanded to construct each year during the festival season. Each year we build a sukkah for our family outside where we will worship and gaze at the stars all week, but I want my children to remember that their Messiah was born in the most humble of abodes and there was honored by shepherds as angels sang “Glory to God in the highest!” Sometimes a visual aid is the best bet in these circumstances. I’ve been saving my pennies for a very long time to purchase some simple carved nativity scene pieces and this year is the first year that I’ve been able to assemble it completely. But simply setting up some wooden caricatures isn’t enough. We wanted to build a little home for them, sort of a reminder of how we make a place for Yeshua in our hearts and lives when we accept Him as our Messiah. It was nearly impossible to find models or ideas for this kind of mini-sukkah online as most of them are the edible kind made of graham crackers, frosting, and pretzels (those are wonderful too and we’ll probably make some this year!).
Inspiration finally hit me when I saw a basket that would work perfectly when turned on its side (loosely resembling traditional three-sided sukkahs). The only real instructions about sukkah-building involve fruits of the land and green branches, so I pretty much threw together enough to make it “pretty” as a centerpiece in our family room during this festive season, but recognizable for what it is supposed to be. I’m putting my instructions here for any other Messianic families who might need some ideas for a mini-sukkah of their own in order to create their own traditions.
Step 1: Here are the simple materials, purchased from a local craft store. Any basket can work, but I wanted mine to have a sort of rustic look to it, as if it had been constructed of branches. Some burlap attached with twine added a covering for the walls, plus a little greenery with “fruit” for the decoration, and some “hay” for the floor were all I needed.
Step 2: We used Tacky Spray to attach the grass-like hay to strips of burlap, which would then be placed inside the sukkah.
Step 3: We wove the greenery into the top of the sukkah and trimmed off the ends.
Step 4: This was the fun part – weaving the “fruits” onto the sides and attaching them with twine. While it is virtually certain that there was NO sparkly eucalyptus in Yeshua’s birthplace sukkah, it looks really nice on this decorative one. Since most of our friends will go all out (and I do mean ALL OUT in decorating their sukkahs this week) it doesn’t hurt to add some flavor!
Step 5: This was Jaelah’s idea – she thought a light inside the sukkah would look good, so we found one of those little tap lights we had lying around and glued it to the “ceiling” of the sukkah.
Step 6: Assemble the sukkah and turn the light on. I really like that it actually looks as though there is a bright, shining star illuminating the family in the sukkah. I kept thinking of my grandma’s words as I helped her in her florist shop as a little girl. “Assemble the work in triangles.” As a result, I think this arrangement looks pretty balanced and eye-catching. Then again, I would be proud of any effort my girls spent on something like this.
Chag sameach and may all your families be blessed during this festival season, whatever traditions you establish as you build booths and remember the Son of God.