Ice Cream, Books, and Blanket Forts: Celebrating Shavuot Under Quarantine

Two children reading a book under blanket fort

Shavuot is almost here! For reasons that we here at PJ Library will never understand, it continues to be one of the most underrated of the kid-friendly Jewish holidays. Although Shavuot is traditionally celebrated with late-night Torah and blintz binges, this is an ideal holiday for families quarantined at home. All you need are books, ice cream, and a cozy spot to snuggle up and read.

Related: Why Kids Love Shavuot (And You Will Too)

This year, Shavuot starts the evening of Thursday, May 28, precisely 49 days after the second day of Passover, just as we finish counting the Omer. As one of three pilgrimage festivals (along with Sukkot and Passover), Shavuot both helps us remembering the ancient offerings of the early summer grain harvest, and perhaps more importantly, the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. 

The giving of the Torah was a big deal. The Jews had just escaped slavery in Egypt and spent seven weeks wandering the desert. Then, in a flash of thunder and lightning, they had a whole new set of teachings, stories, rules, and laws that would change everything for them. (As we are currently in the middle of a global pandemic, a story about lives being upended with a bunch of new rules and customs feels especially resonant.)

Jews around the world celebrate Shavuot in a variety of ways, including eating dairy-based desserts and staying up all night to learn Torah and other Jewish ideas. PJ Library’s spin on this is to stay up late reading and eating ice cream.

Here’s how to do it: make a cozy spot (sukkah-style fort, anyone?) somewhere in your house, have your child pick all of their favorite books, bonus points if they’re PJ Library titles. Grab some ice cream (or cheesecake if you’re feeling fancy), and make a plan to read as many books as you can before the kids (or parents!) fall asleep.

Letting your kids stay up and eat ice cream will definitely make you Parent of the Year (or at least Parent of the Night) and your children will get to experience an age-old Jewish tradition. It’s definitely a win for them; here are a few tips to make sure it’s a win for you, too:

  • “Staying up late” will look different for every family. You’re just going for late enough to make it feel special, but not so late that your kiddos will turn into little gremlins. For some kids, this magic hour may be as early as 7:00 pm, for others, it might be later.
  • For the lactose intolerant among us, non-dairy ice cream, popsicles, or anything sweet and yummy are great options.
  • If you’ve got older kids at home, enlist their help in making one of these Shavuot recipes. 
  • If you’re looking for some Shavuot books, check out this list of PJ Library titles

As we continue to figure out what it means to live in a time when all the rules are changing, we can celebrate the original “rules” of Judaism by throwing out some of our parenting rules, at least for one evening. Chag Shavuot Sameach, or Happy Shavuot, everyone!

About the Author

Carla Naumburg, PhD, is a clinical social worker and author of three parenting books, including the forthcoming How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids (Workman, 2019). She lives outside of Boston with her husband and two daughters.