By Ziva Swire, MHWOW Program Manager
Spring has officially sprung! Time to pull out the tank tops and flip flops from the closet, take some allergy medication (the pollen is wild this year), and celebrate one of my favorite springtime Jewish holidays, Lag B’Omer! Last year for Lag B’omer, we showed you how to adapt with a virtual storytelling and cozy fireplace event. But for 2021, many people are finding that outdoor programs allow for safe gatherings and as the weather gets warmer in North America and Europe, Lag B’Omer is the perfect one to host outside!
Wait, back up – what’s Lag B’Omer again?
“Lag” is the Hebrew letters lamed and gimel, which in gematria (a system where Hebrew letters represent numbers) equals 33. So Lag B’Omer is the 33rd day of the Omer count. The Omer is the period of 7 weeks between Passover and Shavuot. It is a day of happiness during the Omer which is typically considered a time of mourning.
Lag B’Omer is a celebration of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai, an important 2nd century sage, in honor of his revealing the secrets of the Zohar, the core text of mystical Judaism. It is a common practice to celebrate Lag B’Omer by lighting bonfires in honor of the light that Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai brought to the world.
Got it, so how do I host this during a pandemic?
This year, Lag B’Omer starts in the evening of Thursday, April 29th, and goes until sundown on Friday, April 30th. Since one of the most well-known traditions of the holiday is to have a bonfire and that is done outdoors, it’s easy to create a program that can allow for social distancing and a good time celebrating in nature!
Step 1: Build the bonfire
If you’re lucky enough to live near the beach, that’s a great spot to build a bonfire. If not, check your local parks to see what places might allow for one in the area. If you can’t find a spot, a campfire in a backyard fire pit will give you the same effect. Check out this article for steps to building a bonfire, and this one for how to build a campfire.
Step 2: Set up a s’mores bar
Gather your basics: chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers, and arrange them on a variety of small plates or bowls. Pro tip: collect roasting sticks the day before while it’s still light out and pile them up neatly next to the s’mores building station so people aren’t fumbling around in the dark. One more idea… have each guest bring a unique ingredient to add to your s’more bar. Branch out with different kinds of fancy chocolate, add in a shmear of peanut butter or nutella – the sky’s the limit!
Step 3: Rock out!
Lag B’Omer is all about being a day of happiness and joy so what better way to foster a fun atmosphere than with some tunes? Grab your guitar (or your friend that plays guitar) and get ready to jam around the campfire. If you need inspiration and lyrics to play, we’ve got you covered! Check out the Moishe House Soul Jams for plenty to choose from, from Oseh Shalom to Wagon Wheel. Don’t forget to print out some extra copies of song lyrics that you plan on using to hand out to guests so everyone can sing along.
We hope that this Lag B’Omer gives you a chance to celebrate with friends outside and a hope for more light in the world in the future! Happy Hosting!