In addition to being a singer, and imagining himself an actor, Elvis Presley spent a great deal of time serving as his own interior decorator.
At his Memphis home, visitors are invited to admire (if you’re an Elvis fan), or just tolerate (if you’re not), his “jungle room.”
Here, Elvis himself selected zebra-like fabrics and other wild, wild furniture and textiles he hoped would make any visitor to Graceland feel like he had just stepped into the jungles of the remote depths of Africa.
Now you may be wondering exactly what Elvis has to do with Shavuot.
Here’s the answer.
If Elvis – a man who actually thought jewel-encrusted jump suits were tasteful – could turn a room in Tennessee into a jungle, imagine what your family could do to a room in your home on Shavuot.
Synagogues and temples everywhere are covered in lush green on Shavuot.
Why not do the same in your house? Gather everything green (blankets, rugs, plants, balloons, streamers) and make a favorite spot as green as you dare! Also, invite children to draw pictures showing flowers and trees, and hang these everywhere. It will be fun!
After your special Shavuot room is ready, here are a few more family projects for the holiday:
1. Since Shavuot is the dairy holiday, have everyone in the family learn about one different kind of cheese. Then bring lots of samples to the dinner table, and serve with crackers as an appetizer. (You also can find at the library a number of books on making your own cheese, but be prepared: this can take a lot of time and it’s a rather complicated process.)
2. Ruth is one of the most intriguing characters in Jewish history. Learn what you can about her from the Torah and other resource material, then share with family members what you have discovered.
3. One of the nicest abilities you’ll find in children is their skill at imagining. Rather than actually have them stay up until midnight (do this, and you risk your own sanity), ask them to look into the dark, night sky at around 9 p.m. and imagine what seeing the whole universe would be like. If it’s a clear night, take a blanket outside and look deep into the heavens. Seeing the world this way can be like experiencing a miracle.
4. Before the holiday begins, ask children to make their own version of a Mount Sinai. They’ll have quite an adventure if you allow them to mix baking soda, vinegar and a drop of food coloring (watch out! this is messy!), or maybe you prefer a mountain of sand, or pillows piled high on the bed.
5. As we celebrate this holiday when Jews received the Torah from God, ask each family member to discuss a Torah story, or verse, or mitzvah (commandment) that he or she feels is especially important or intriguing.
6. Invite all your guests to make and bring a favorite cheesecake recipe. But first, “gift” everyone with an antique apron (you can find these at almost any local antique shop) or a homemade one (plain, white aprons are available at local craft shops. Decorate with paints or permanent markers).
7. Make decorations for the holiday. Cut out small Stars of Davids and Torah scrolls and place throughout the house. To make a game, hide these and have the winner receive a small treat.
8. Did you know that ice cream is the No. 1 favorite dessert in the United States? Why not get lots of great supplies and have friends and family over for an ice cream party for Shavuot? In addition to sprinkles and chocolate sauce and cherries and nuts and whipped cream, consider some off-beat toppings like mango slices, cinnamon-candy bits, broken-up candy bars and marshmallows.
9. In Hebrew, shavuot means weeks. How many other holidays using a “time” word can you identify? How about Yom (day) Kippur, and Rosh Chodesh (chodesh means “month”)?
10. What better way to celebrate a dairy holiday than by recalling all the cheesy stuff you can think of? Have everyone make a list of the sappiest, hokiest movies, books, sayings, TV programs he or she can imagine, then read them all for a great laugh!