a) The giving of the Torah (Z’man Matan Torateinu)
b) The harvest holiday (Hag Hakatzir)
c) Holiday of the first fruits (Hag Habikurim)
d) Feast of Weeks (Hag Shavuot)
The answer is e) All of the above!
Here’s a short overview about Shavuot from judaism.com.
Given the diversity of celebration possibilities, here are four ideas inspired by books about Shavuot that can be precursors to activities to enjoy as a family. Or, you can just jump into the activities.
#1. The popular “Mountains of Blintzes” by Barbara Diamond Goldin is for kids ages 5 and up. The illustrations and simple, fluid writing are delightful, as we learn about Sarah and Max who want to make a mountain of blintzes, but they don’t have the money to buy the ingredients. This story tells about their solution and ultimate success.
Activity: This story is a perfect way to set the stage to make your own blintzes. If you have the time to shop for the ingredients together, great. Or, if you’re so pressed for time, you can’t make your own blintzes, no worries — buy the frozen kind at the supermarket. And let your kids make a mountain of the cooked blinzes on a plate.
#2. Alison Ofanansky’s “Cheesecake for Shavuot” (for children in grades 1 -4) takes an agricultural approach by using photography to showcase the journey of making cheesecake. Children in Israel are shown making flour they have ground from wheat, preparing fresh goat cheese from petting zoo goats, and picking fresh strawberries from the garden.”
Activity: In many parts of the country, strawberry-picking season is here or coming soon. Find a pick-your-own farm nearby, so you can celebrate harvest in a very tangible way. Alternatively, go to a farmer’s market and choose produce fresh from the earth.
#3. Sadie and the Big Mountain by Jamie Korngold is great encouragement to be out in nature. “When her preschool plans a Shavuot hike just like Moses took up Mt. Sinai, Sadie is afraid she is too little to make it to the top,” but she learns that “anyone can climb high enough to reach God.”
Activity: Plan a family outing that includes a hike and a picnic. Tailor the hike to the abilities of the participants. When our grandson was 3, he and I “hiked” away from the rest of the family to walk to and up what he dubbed “Raisin Hill.” We found walking sticks to help us on our journey. Along the way, we discovered wildflowers and neat stones that we stopped to explore. When we rejoined the family, we told stories about our outing, as we picnicked with the group.
#4. In ”Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook” (for grades 4 and up), you’ll find more Shavuot cooking inspiration. In this visually beautiful book, author Jane Yolen joins illustrator Sima Elizabeth Shefrin and recipe creator Heidi Stemple to give us a taste of the old world. The tale that precedes the cheesecake recipe is a new-to-me version of Tevye, the dairyman, who found that all four of his cows were dry – and discovered that a tiny couple was milking his cows and stealing the milk. It’s fun and short to read together.
Activity: The accompanying recipe is for no-bake mini cheesecakes. You can adjust it to the age/capability of the bakers in your group. For instance, to grind up the graham crackers, you can use a food processor – or just seal them in a zip-sealed bag and pound them with your fist. Once the dough is made, little hands roll it into small balls and press partly flat – as the base of these bite-sized cheesecakes.
Please share your family’s favorite ways to celebrate Shavuot.
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