The magic of Revels moved online last year and our band of jolly wassailers thanks you for inviting us in to share our Fall 2020 theme, Hearth & Home, from the comfort of your own home! Our “Season of Reveling” celebrated the closeness of family, the comfort of friends, and the magic of opening our doors to all as we shared, laughed, sang and danced together from Autumn to Winter.
This year the glow came from our screens rather than the flaming Yule log, but the warmth was just as real.
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December 20-January 6
- The highlight of our “Season of Reveling”! Family and friends gathered for this special event, with traditional Revels singalongs, performances by our virtual choruses of Adults, Teens and Children, the cheerful sound of the Washington Revels Brass, and more!
Fall holidays and celebrations from September 17-December 20 and beyond!
Watch the many beautiful videos, activities, and events marking holidays and celebrations from a wide variety of traditions. Our “Book of Days” is now filled with performances, tutorials, recipes, and coloring sheets for the special days that members of the Revels community have shared with us this Fall.
Open the “Revels Book of Days” for celebrations of the Jewish High Holidays, the Autumnal Equinox, the Japanese Harvest Moon Festival, Navaratri, Dia de los Muertos, and Diwali, and many, many more.
Click below to open our “Book of Days” and join the celebration!
Stay up to date on all Revels events and programs:
How We Celebrated Fall Holidays
Please support “A Season of Reveling” and this series of videos and activities:
Scroll down to see what we’ve been celebrating this Fall!
December 18-20 – Solstice Preparations!
Decorating the Yule Log
Reveler Jenny Corbett and her family share their tradition of decorating the Yule Log for the Winter Solstice. Learn how to prepare to burn your own “beseeching fire … “to keep the year alive” in this fun video — it’s a great activity that everyone in the family can be part of!
December 13 – Sankta Lucia Festival
A Swedish holiday came to life, with help from Revelers of all ages! If you missed our family-friendly virtual Sankta Lucia Festival, you can enjoy the recording of this beautiful Nordic event, featuring children from our Fall workshops , and members of the Adult and Children’s Choruses from our Winter Solstice Revels, with special guest artists and Scandinavian music specialists Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelley and Charlie Pilzer (the stage band in our 2016 Nordic Christmas Revels).
December 10-17 – Chanukah in the Revels Community
From Reveler Debbie Grossman:
“Chanukah (which means dedication) is an eight-day celebration of lights during the darkest part of the year. It originated as a celebration of the victory of the Maccabees, a small group of Jewish rebels, over the Syrian-Greek army in 165 B.C.E. to reclaim the Jewish temple. A common story for why we light candles for Chanukah is that they only had enough consecrated oil for the temple menorah for one day, but it lasted for eight days and nights. We light our chanukkiah (Chanukah menorah), adding a candle each night, using a special candle (the shamas) to light the other candles. Modern celebrations of Chanukah often include singing, playing dreidel for gelt, and eating foods prepared in oil. American Jews often give their children small gifts.”
See below for videos on making your own latkes and chocolate gelt:
Learn to Make Latkes
Reveler Jonathan Mulberg teaches us how to make latkes in preparation for the eight nights of Chanukah.
Making Chocolate Gelt
Elle, a member of our Solstice Revels Children, teaches us how to make chocolate gelt, a Chanukah tradition!
A New Chanukah Song for Revelers
On the second night of Chanukah, Reveler Lila Guterman and her family shared the song, “There Was a King,” that was new to everyone at the candle-lighting. Revelers were so struck by the song that they wanted to share it.
From Lila: “It’s called Hayo Haya. Here’s a link to an artist singing it in Hebrew, more or less in the style that it’s like in my mind: https://youtu.be/7U3cj-
There was a king, a wicked king, a wicked king
His sword was sharp, his arrows ringing, arrows ringing
Mihu? [Who then?] Antiochus, Antiochus, Antiochus, Antiochus
He came to kill us, burned the torah, burned the torah
Put out the candles in the menorah, in the menorah,
Mihu? Antiochus, Antiochus, Antiochus, Antiochus
Then up rose Judah, he was brave, he was brave
Jerusalem he would save, he would save
Mihu? Judah Maccabee, Judah Maccabee, Judah Maccabee, Judah Maccabee
He lit the candles in the temple, in the menorah
Jews had light, light and torah, light and torah
Matay bar Hanukkah, bar Hanukkah, bar Hanukkah, bar Hanukkah
Activities for Kids
Online Dreidel Game
Click here to learn more about Chanukah.
December 6 – Saint Nicholas Day Singalong
On Saint Nicholas Day, we held a special singalong to teach the Winter Solstice Revels audience sings in advance. Click below to watch the recording. You’ll be ready to enjoy our Solstice celebration to the fullest! And don’t forget to buy your tickets to the Winter Solstice Revels for yuletide merriment on December 20, plus on-demand access throughout the holiday season.
November 14 – Diwali
From the 2003 Christmas Revels: “Roads of the Roma” Program:
This Festival of Lights is celebrated nationally in India to welcome Lakshmi, consort of Lord Vishnu, also known as the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. It is celebrated with Rangoli designs painted in front of houses, floral decorations, fireworks and rows of diyas (oil lamps) that symbolize the age-old desire to drive away the darkness of ignorance with the light of knowledge.
Sunday – Reflections on Diwali
Reveler Monica Mohindra closes her series on Diwali this weekend with reflections on the universality of its themes.
Saturday – Cultivating Marigolds
Reveler Monica Mohindra continues to share the holiday of Diwali. In this video, learn how to grow and cultivate the beautiful marigolds used to make decorative garlands!
Friday – Making Marigold Garlands
Reveler Monica Mohindra shares the delicate art of creating garlands of marigolds. If you don’t have fresh flowers handy, you can see an alternative to use in making garlands here.
November 6-7 – Shabbat & Havdalah
From Reveler Rowyn Peel:
Shabbat is the weekly day of rest, which we celebrate from Friday at sunset to Saturday at nightfall. In the creation story, God rested on the seventh day, and in the Torah, we are specifically commanded to rest on the seventh day as well. It is an important reminder in our busy world to take time to reflect on the past week, to meditate on spirituality, and to simply rest.
There are many varied interpretations and traditions of how to celebrate shabbat, from refusing to flick a light switch, cook, or write, to performing in a Revels show or working in the garden (it’s not work if it’s fun, right?) Whatever your personal interpretation of the commandment, resting is sacred. Therefore, on Friday nights, we ritually light candles, drink wine, and eat challah, and we wish each other Shabbat Shalom! (A peaceful shabbat!)
Havdalah refers to the ritual closing of Shabbat on Saturday at nightfall. We light a special braided candle, smell herbs, and sip wine, all while chanting or singing the relevant blessings, to allow ourselves one last moment of reflection and gratitude for Shabbat. At the end of the ritual, we say Shavuah Tov! (Have a good week!)
We invite you to celebrate Shabbat and Havdalah with us by learning how to bake challah and joining us in the ritual blessings for Friday evening and Saturday night!
Saturday – Marking Havdalah with the Ehrensteins
Friday – Welcoming Shabbat with the Ehrensteins
Friday – Making Challah for Shabbat
November 2 – Dia de Los Muertos
Dia de los Muertos Altar
Reveler Lisa Grosh returns in her second video with an introduction to the Mexican “Day of the Dead” holiday. Lisa also takes a few minutes to share her family’s beautifully decorated altar with us, and to explain who they chose to remember this year and what offerings they selected. And watch the video below to learn how to make sugar skulls for this special day.
Preparing for Dia de los Muertos
Reveler Lisa Grosh reveals the secrets of making sugar skulls for Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) and shares other traditions of this time to honor those who have gone before us.
November 1 – Maryland Emancipation Day
The Washington Revels Jubilee Voices presents a virtual performance celebrating the day that enslaved African Americans living in Maryland were freed! Director Andrea Jones Blackford and ensemble member David Fakunle provide commentary on the history and meaning of Emancipation Day, both nationally and in Maryland.
October 30 – “Souling Song” for Halloween
Dating from medieval times, families made “soul cakes” in remembrance of the dead around the time of All Hallows’ Eve (which we now know as Halloween). Children would go from door to door, singing and receiving a soul cake for their song, much like our modern trick-or-treating. The tradition, known as “souling,” is still followed in many places in the British Isles. Enjoy this traditional “Souling Song” from the Cheshire region of England around 1893 sung by the Washington Revels Solstice Children!
Did You Know?
“The Souling Song” can be heard on the Revels Recording A Child’s Christmas Revels, featuring the 1992 Christmas Revels Children’s Chorus from right here in DC!
Bake Your Own Soul Cakes
Download a recipe for soul cakes here and decide if you think they’re worth “souling” for!
October 29 – Mawlid an Nabawi
From Reveler Elisabeth Myers:
“Today we are celebrating Mawlid an Nabawi — the birth of the Prophet Mohammed PBUH [peace be upon him]. Mawlid an Nabawi is observed on the twelfth day of the third month of the Muslim year. There are more than 1.8 billion Muslims in the world, representing almost one quarter of the entire population, and Eid al Mawlid is one of their most important religious and national holidays, celebrated by almost all Muslim countries.
On this holiday, families gather to feast, recite poems, and sing songs about the life of the prophet PBUH. They decorate their homes and mosques and give out charity and food to the poor. In some cities, large street processions are held, like the 400-year-old tradition of the procession of candles in Salé in the north of Morocco. Special celebrations focus on particular events that happened during the prophet’s life as told in the Qur’an and Hadiths.
We will sing for you a traditional song that almost everyone across the Muslim world knows. It expresses the people’s joy at the goodness, reason, and blessings the prophet PBUH brings.”
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October 17-26 – Navaratri
Garba-Raas Folk Dance
From the 2003 Christmas Revels program:
This festival of nine nights of celebration and dance is dedicated to the Mother or Divine Goddess who represents the all-powerful universal energy that destroys evil and protects the righteous. The folk dance Garba-Raas is still performed today in the western Indian state of Gujarat. Garba (from the Sanskrit garbadeep, meaning a lamp inside a pot) is a circular dance performed by women wearing colorful embroidered textiles that bring the arid landscape to life. They dance with Garba pots on their heads, symbolizing the Universe and the light of Universal Energy shining through. As the celebration progresses, the Garba gives way to a more energetic stick dance, Dandiya Raas, in which dancers join the circle holding small polished sticks or dandiyas, striking them together as they whirl to the intoxicating rhythms. The Raas has its roots in the legendary dance between Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and the village maidens, symbolizing the joyful dance of the human soul with God.
Featured in this video:
Oran Sandel as Old Rom
Khanci Dos (stage band)
Nritya-Tarangi (Dancing Waves) Dancers
Read the full program from the 2003 Christmas Revels: Roads of the Roma
October 10-11 – Simchat Torah
From Reveler Rowyn Peel:
“Simchat Torah literally means rejoicing with the Torah! The Torah is the central text of the Jewish people, hand-written by scribes on scrolls of parchment. On this day, we have reached the end of the scroll, and we must re-roll the Torah back to the beginning to start reading it again. This annual rewind reminds us to celebrate the knowledge and wisdom that has been passed down through the generations, from scroll to scribe to new scroll. Chag sameach! (Happy holiday!)”
Simchat Torah Concert with Seth Kibel
Sunday, October 11, 3 PM
“Traditionally we would dance around the synagogue together with the Torah. This year, we invite you to dance along at home to a klezmer concert by Seth Kibel, a tradition bearer in our 2019 Christmas Revels: ‘Celestial Fools’!”
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Download a Simchat Torah Coloring Sheet
To learn more about Simchat Torah, click here.
October 2-9 – Harvest Bounty and Sukkot
From Reveler Rowyn Peel:
“Sukkot is a holiday of joy and bounty! We give thanks for the Fall harvest, and we build sukkah, temporary huts. These are based on the huts our ancestors built in the fields during harvest time, but they can also symbolize spiritual protection and support. It is customary to eat meals in the sukkah during the week-long holiday, and to invite friends and neighbors to join us in rejoicing.
We invite you to celebrate with us by watching a sukkah being built, making decorations, learning about the symbolism of the lulav and the etrog, and more! Chag sameach! (Happy holiday!)”
Symbols of Sukkot
At the heart of our Season of Reveling are hearth and home and, in that same spirit, Revelers Judy and David welcome us into their sukkah, to share traditional rituals and the symbols from the natural world that belong to this time of gratitude, hospitality, and celebration.
Reveler Meg Siritzky shows us how to make delicious kreplach — a savory harvest dumpling enjoyed during Sukkot! Watch the video and download the recipe at the button below. (Recipe includes both beef and squash versions.)
3-D Apple Craft
A member of our 2020 Children’s Chorus — the Winter Solstice Children — teaches us how to make an apple that can be used to decorate a sukkah in this short video. It’s easy, fun and looks great, too. Give it a try!
Building a Sukkah
The father-son team of Reveler David Ehrenstein and his dad, Gerry, talk about their first sukkah-building experiences and show how to make a sukkah in a terrific time-lapse video! Be sure to download a Sukkot coloring sheet for kids at the button below!
October 1 – Celebrating Tsukimi
Poetry for the Moon
Shizumi Shigeto Manale, the “Moon” Fool in our 2019 Christmas Revels: “Celestial Fools,” performs two poems in honor of Tsukimi — the Japanese Harvest Moon Festival.
As Shizumi relates:
“For many years in Japan, it was believed that there were rabbits who lived on the moon and produced an elixir of life. When I was a child, I grew up with those stories. I remember sitting on the garden bench and celebrating my own birthday, which was around the time of the moon-viewing festival.
My mother often told me that she found me in the bamboo forest that was behind my grandparents home in Hiroshima. She told me that I was a bamboo child and that the moon sent me to my mother on the day of the Moon Festival. I was taught that the moon had magic powers, just as in ancient times people looked at the moon and created romantic and make-believes stories. I became interested in how my ancestors thought and felt about the moon, and so I have gathered and chosen more than 35 poems from 8000 ancient poems which focus on the moon. Currently, I am creating a Waka book about moon and love stories from 300 AD and the Heiyan period. I will introduce one of these Waka poems in this video.”
The Sunrise in the West
What a filed of yellow blossoms
Yet the moon in the West
How many times
have we seen the same moon?
Month after month, year after year
But there is no moon to be
compared with tonight’s moon — Anonymous 8th-century Waka poem
Preparing for the Harvest Moon
In these two videos, Reveler Mari Parker shares the Tsukimi traditions she learned as a child in Tokyo, and has now passed on to her son and grandson! Learn how they honor the Harvest Moon with food and crafts, and try your hand at making beautiful origami rabbits, in the videos below.
Making Origami Rabbits
September 22 – Welcoming the Autumnal Equinox
Our “Season of Reveling” continues with a musical celebration of the start of Autumn and the arrival of crisp Fall weather. Enjoy this beautiful video performance of “Emerald Stream” by composer Seth Houston, featuring singers from the Washington Revels Chorus led by Revels Music Director Betsy Fulford. Inspired by the New England shape-note tradition, “Emerald Stream” was featured in our 2006 “Early American” Christmas Revels and appears on our 2013 CD “Sing and Rejoice.”
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September 17-28 – Preparing for the High Holidays
From the Revels Community:
“Shanah Tovah! (Happy New Year!) Our group of Revelers has been meeting to share family traditions, recipes, songs, and stories for the Jewish Holidays. We start with Rosh Hashanah, this Saturday, September 19.
Rosh Hashanah, literally “head of the year,” is the Jewish New Year. We blow the shofar (ram’s horn) in the morning to gather everyone together to celebrate, and we eat sweets, like apples and honey, to bring in a sweet new year. Rosh Hashanah is also the first of the ten Days of Awe, a time of reflection leading to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
We invite you to celebrate with us in a singalong, a challah-braiding tutorial, a guided meditation, activities for kids, and more, coming here and on Facebook.”
Marking Yom Kippur:
From Reveler Rowyn Peel:
“Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement. We gather to reflect on our mistakes and regrets from the past year, and to ask forgiveness: from G-d, from each other, or from within ourselves, depending on our traditions and personal beliefs. This is also a major fasting day, when we ignore the desires of the physical body to focus on our spiritual goals. Fasting traditionally includes abstaining from food, water, and sometimes other pleasures for 25 hours. However, if it is medically unsafe for a person to fast, they are obligated to eat, because taking care of yourself is more important than taking any ritual instructions literally.
Yom Kippur is the holiest Holy Day in the Jewish calendar. The traditional greetings are “G’mar chatima tovah,” which means “May you be sealed [in the Book of Life] for a good year,” and “may you have a meaningful fast” if you know someone is fasting.” Learn more about Yom Kippur here.
For Yom Kippur, Reveler Toni Goldberg and our friends at The Puppet Company have shared this production of Jonah and the Great Fish with us. Enjoy! You can also click the button below to download a Yom Kippur coloring sheet for kids!
Baking a Honey Cake:
“Preparing for the High Holidays” continues as Reveler Debbie Grossman shares how to bake a honey cake — following her great-grandmother’s recipe! Download the recipe at the button below and make it yourself.
Reveler Meg Siritzky and family are your guides through the practical, creative, and ultimately delicious steps for making teglach: knotted pastries with honey and nuts that are enjoyed at Rosh Hashanah. Click below for the recipe and make them yourself!
Reveler Meg Siritzky guides us in an embodied Tashlich meditation created by Rebekka Helford. Tashlich is a traditional atonement ritual observed during the holiday of Rosh Hashana that harnesses the power of “casting off” to help us release the burdens we’ve been holding as the new year begins.
To learn more, watch…
Take a moment for reflection with Reveler Rowyn Peel, who introduces the Jewish ritual Tashlikh, practiced between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Rowyn adds: “You can write down your regrets if you find that helps you think through them. However, please do not throw your list into the stream! It is also customary to use this time to reflect on everyone we have hurt or wronged in the past year. You can write a list, but the important thing is to make sure you sincerely apologize before Yom Kippur. The Days of Awe are an important time for reflection so that we can learn from our mistakes and work to do better next year.”
Tashlikh, which translates to “cast off,” is a Jewish ritual that we do between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Traditionally, we toss breadcrumbs into the stream to symbolize letting go of our regrets from the past year. However, bread isn’t healthy for the wildlife, so it’s better to use fallen leaves or sticks from near the stream. Tashlikh is typically a very personal, introspective activity. It can be done in a group, but you’re under no obligation to say your thoughts aloud. Take your time. The purpose is to reflect on the past year, not to discard it. It’s important to recall mistakes, so that we can come to terms with our flaws and make a conscious decision to do better in the year to come. Shanah Tovah, everyone!
Shofar Interview & Demonstration
Reveler David Ehrenstein interviews shofar-blower Jeff Toretsky about the shofar (ram’s horn), which is blown on Rosh Hashanah. Hear and learn about this 5,000 year-old-instrument! Special activity for kids: click below to download a Rosh Hashanah coloring sheet — how would you color in a shofar?
Apples & Honey Singalong Video
As part of their preparations for Rosh Hashanah, Reveler Carlin and her mother invite us to sing along with them in the song “Apples and Honey” in the hope of a “sweet new year.” Special activity for kids: click below to download a Rosh Hashanah coloring sheet — what colors will you pick for your apples and honey?
From Reveler Erin:
“Rosh Hashanah has always been a special time of year for me. As it often falls in September, it brings a true change in season – the breeze gets cooler, the shadows longer, and apples and spices are everywhere. It’s a time for celebration, and to reflect on the past year.
This year has been like none other for all of us! At the start of our COVID-19 ‘lockdown,’ my family needed something to signify the end of the workweek. I looked to my Jewish traditions and brought celebrating shabbat — which starts at sundown on Fridays –—into our family routine. Along with that came challah baking! My daughter Margo helped me make our very first challah, and we’ve been making them for shabbat ever since.
Challah is a traditional Jewish bread, and in my Ashkenazi (eastern European) tradition, it’s a yeasted dough enriched with eggs, honey, and olive oil. It is typically presented in a long braid with intricate patterns, but for Rosh Hashanah, the challah takes on a round form to signify the turning of the year. These rounds can be braided or made as a simple spiral. Challah on Rosh Hashanah also may feature raisins to signify a sweet new year!
I hope you’ll join me in making a challah for your family this Rosh Hashanah. It’s a sweet treat that brings us all together, even when we are far apart. L’shana tova!“
More About Jewish Holidays:
The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, so the common calendar dates for the Jewish holidays change every year. Jewish calendar dates begin at sundown of the night beforehand. Thus holiday observances begin the night before. Jewish calendar dates conclude at nightfall. Learn more about Jewish Holidays here, and at this article for kids.
How We Welcomed Yule
“Activity of youth! Activity of age! Such activity as you’ve never seen on… On Screen?”
The Winter Solstice Revels kindled the spirit of the season and the comfort of “hearth & home”! During a year like none other, the glow may have come from our favorite devices rather than the flaming Yule log, but the warmth was just as real with traditional Revels singalongs, performances by our virtual choruses of Adults, Teens and Children, the cheerful sound of the Washington Revels Brass, and a stunning rendition of the spiritual My Lord What a Mornin’ by the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices.
Guests and longtime Revels friends Mark Jaster, Sabrina Mandell, and Happenstance Theater joined the merriment for all ages with a special 2020 mummers play, and Foggy Bottom Morris and Rock Creek Morris baought the haunting Abbots Bromley Horn Dance to life.