One of the most interesting holidays in the Jewish calendar is ‘Sukkot’, when religious Jewish people (as well as many secular kids) spend time in small wooden huts near their homes. This is also known as the “Collection Festival”, following the old Biblical command: “Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days.” (Leviticus 23:39)
Researchers associate the origin of many ancient holidays with the yearly cycle that developed in local cultures during the Agricultural Revolution. Prof. Yuval Noah Harari (‘A Brief History of Mankind’) describes the reasons and processes that had led large groups of humans to domesticate various plants and animals – a thing that led to changes in ways of like and developing new customs and holidays.
Staying in a hut near the field made work easier during the gathering of crops and defending it, under pressure of time. One of many reasons was the expected rain, coming soon in many areas in this season.
— * — * —
The adaptation of the holiday to the early Hebrew culture was accompanied, as with many other things, with a nice collection of specific religious commands, associated with the calendar and other agricultural elements. One of the more bizarre phenomena of the Hebrew agricultural holidays has to do with the Hebrew “leap year”, which once in a while causes the holidays to slightly precede or be later that their natural time.
Another curious phenomenon associated with ‘Sukkot’ was formed during the time of the Maccabees in the 2nd century BC. In those times it was customary to start the holiday celebrations in the temple, which was occupied by foreign strict Greek/Seleucid regime for a while. So the book of ‘Maccabees’ explains how after the temple was freed by the local warriors, they published a new verdict calling all Jews to re-celebrate the holiday of ‘Sukkot’ for eight days in the winter.
Years later, this new holiday has evolved to be our present-day ‘Hanukkah’, accompanied by old legends that also evolved to tell the story of the “Hanukkah miracle”, of a small amount of oil in the temple, fit for one day of light, which lasted eight days.