As far as chagim go, I believe Sukkos is actually the most child friendly. The way my children say it, it even sounds like “circus”–and you can actually go to the circus on chol hamoed.
Now, many would probably feel Chanukah is the most child friendly. It ranks up there in the top 5. But I feel the goyish influences have led to unreasonable present expectations, followed by disappointment. Pesach, while our Sages instituted many customs in the Seder to pique our children’s interest, and our yeshivas create many wonderful projects to get them involved, these only last a half hour or so, while the Seder often lasts longer. Purim is another runnerup. It is really a lot of fun. But the candy leads to lots of sugar highs, followed soon afterwards by sugar lows. My children aren’t used to all the candy and sometimes get physically ill from it as well. Also, being in the car all day making deliveries can be quite tiring on everyone. Last year, I really empathized with the UPS and Fed Ex delivery people. Driving in circles, in and out of the car, up and down the stairs is quite a workout, and my stuff isn’t even heavy like their deliveries are.
So, back to Sukkos. It starts off with the clear directive, “VSamachta bchagecha.” I remember learning in Gemara the ways to make men, women, and children happy. So simple yet so true, even thousands of years after these Sages lived. Meats and wine, new clothes and jewelry, and toys and candy.
Children can go absolutely delirious with excitement over the decorations they made themselves. I’m almost expecting Crayola to come out with a color-your-own sukkah with walls you can color on. Someone should let them know about this market they’re missing out on. I also love hanging the decorations, noting the changes in style and substance from one year to the next and observing the beauty of our children’s work while I eat.
Eating is another big deal, as with any yom tov. But here’s the best part: the children don’t need permission, or someone to watch them, when they want to play outside. We’re already outside! We can enjoy our long conversations and good food, while they chop a chicken nugget on the way to the swings. As with any meal, they always find their way back in time for dessert.
On Sukkos, the religious items are also intriguing for the children. What a treat to be able to smell, hold, and shake the lulav and esrog!
Then of course there are the chol hamoed days when all the world’s a fair and excitement abounds over all the activity choices. I find it funny when places that don’t have a clue about Yiddishkeit the rest of the year pull out all the stops on Sukkos. Thanks to some enterprising Yidden, you can find sukkahs and kosher food at so many attractions.
Finally, we have Hoshanah Rabbah and Shemini Atzeret, nice days on their own, but even more exciting knowing that Simchas Torah is around the corner.
Now Simchas Torah also has its issues. I love the children’s programs planned at shul, but those last a half hour or so, while the men keep going all night and day. This often leaves mom no other option than taking everyone home early, even though there isn’t much to do at home either. Then we have the issues with sugar highs, lows, and illness again. But watching the joy everyone has dancing with the Torah is really special and reciting Bereishis again is a powerful moment.
So Sukkos still reigns as my favorite child friendly holiday. Chag sameach.