Oh, Chol HaMoed, how I love thee.
Chol HaMoed is the perfect blend of an actual chag and days off: you’re on vacation, no need to rush out to school or work and yet, no one is expecting you to mow the lawn or do the laundry. And Chol HaMoed Sukkot is the best of both worlds because there’s no need to pack the car with a plastic shopping bag full of hard-boiled eggs and jellied fruit like some might do on that other Chol HaMoed that shall remain nameless.
Over the years, our family has gone apple picking (or pumpkin picking, depending on how late in the season the chag falls out) or we might have taken a drive to Amish Country or the Catskills for the day. But then there was the year that everyone was sick with the (so gross) cockasakie virus, also known as hand-foot-and-mouth disease. If you’ve had this in your house, I’m willing to bet you just involuntarily shuddered. And if you haven’t, I pray that you never do. But you might want to go wash your hands now, anyway. Actually, it would be a good idea if we all went and washed our hands. I will. Go ahead, I’ll meet you back here.
The year that hand-foot-and-mouth invaded our home, we had a six-week-old baby who was the first to come down with it – on Yom Kippur morning. There’s nothing quite like walking to the doctor’s office, while fasting, with a newborn who has a fever.
The virus quickly spread to include all the kids plus my husband and, by the first day of Sukkot, we were all down for the count. Needless to say, we did not go farther than the backyard that Chol HaMoed.
So just in case you’re stuck in the house this Chol HaMoed – because there’s a new baby or because someone has a cold – not because of anything worse, here are six ideas for family fun at home.
(And I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that if you have (pre)teenagers at home, they’re likely hanging out with their friends. These suggestions are for the mid-elementary school age and younger.)
1. Melt Lots of Chocolate. It’s yummy and you can be productive by making a Simchat Torah dessert at the same time. Years ago, I picked up a few Torah-shaped and star-shaped chocolate molds somewhere in Flatbush and we’ve been using them ever since.
Big kids and little kids alike can help make the candy – older kids can melt the chocolate in the microwave (on high for 30 seconds and then stir the chocolate, repeat until melted) while younger kids can put the lollipop sticks into the mold and help fill the molds with chocolate. Let the chocolate harden in the molds, pop out the lollipops and then make some more. Be sure to make enough lollipops so everyone can have a taste before Simchat Torah.
2. Play in the Sukkah. Hang out in the sukkah, drink hot chocolate and play popcorn tic-tac-toe. Popcorn tic-tac-toe? It’s exactly what it sounds like – draw a tic-tac-toe board on a sheet of paper. One person uses popcorn as his or her game pieces; the other player uses unpopped kernels. The winner gets to eat the popcorn. But wait, before you start playing, use some of the leftover chocolate from the lollipop-making session and whip up some hot chocolate spoons. To make, dip the tops of plastic spoons into melted chocolate and immediately dip the chocolate covered spoon into any (or all!) of these toppings: sprinkles, chopped nuts, M&M’s, crushed cookies or really, whatever you have in the house. Use these spoons to mix your hot chocolate and, oh my goodness, these are so good as they melt inside your mug of yumminess.