When you have young children, three Jewish holidays get most of the holiday street cred with the kids: Passover, Purim, and Hanukkah. But while these holidays might have more cultural awareness around them, the holiday of Shavuot has plenty of traditions that make it appealing for younger participants too.
Shavuot, which means “weeks,” comes seven weeks after Passover, a period known as the Omer. On the Jewish calendar, Shavuot is the one of the three pilgrimage festivals, special holidays when families would travel to the Temple. The other two are Sukkot in the fall and Passover in the spring.
Modern day celebrations don’t include a trek to the site of the ancient Temple, instead they tie in to the summer season and enjoying the outdoors. Whether you're used to observing Shavuot or ready to celebrate for the first time, scroll down for a few easy, new-to-your family traditions.
Cheesecake and Ice Cream
Dairy has long been a popular choice for Shavuot celebrations, which makes kid-friendly holiday food a piece of cake – cheesecake. The possible origins of this cheesy tradition range from symbolizing the “land of milk and honey” to the mystical numerology of the word halav (milk), which has letters adding up to 40, the number of days Moses spent on Mount Sinai.
Whichever dairy story you prefer, Shavuot is a great time to break out the sundae bar or give kids their first taste of blintzes.
Related: 5 Easy, Cheesy, Recipes for Shavuot
Camping out (or in)
Early summer is prime camping time if your family loves the outdoors. Reenact the Israelites camping at the foot of Mount Sinai, complete with a family hike and s’mores. Or if the weather is looking iffy, set up camp indoors with a pillow fort and blankets.
Related: 10 Fantastic Books About Summer Camp
Staying up Late
Just the cheesecake and campfire may win over the kids, but the main part of observing Shavuot is late-night Torah study. Traditionally, this is a way to make up for the Israelites sleeping in on the day of the giving of the Torah, according to an ancient story.
Kids aren’t expected to study texts through the night, but you can still use Shavuot as an excuse to stay up a little later than usual for some storytelling games.
Flower and Nature Crafts
In addition to commemorating the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, Shavuot also celebrates the spring and early summer harvest. Of course this means that there’s plenty of room on your plate for dairy as well as fruits and vegetables, but it also means nature projects.
Visit a nearby farmers market, try a recipe using local seasonal ingredients, or collect wildflowers to use in a nature art project, like a suncatcher.
« Find more activities, book lists, and recipes on the Shavuot holiday hub
May 22, 2019