As a child, each year during the week before Sukkot, I felt like Cinderella, enviously eyeing her sisters as they dressed in their finery preparing to go to the ball. In my case, it was that I longed to have a sukkah. Although our family was “traditional,” the tradition didn’t go as far as having a sukkah. Where I lived, in the heart of Jewish Manchester in the 1950s, there were Jews of all shades, practices and opinions, but only those who were “very religious” had a sukkah.

Our house was sandwiched between two families; on one side were the Levys and on the other, the Goldbergs. The Levy sukkah was used as a garden shed for most of the year, and they had the roof adapted so that it could be opened for the sechach (vegetation) to be placed in its stead. The Goldberg sukkah was basically an extension of their dining room. Each was in their back garden, not visible to anyone from the street.

I was enthralled by the preparations our neighbors made in the days leading to Sukkot. My face was pressed either to a gap in the fence to see what the Levys were taking into the sukkah or between the leaves of the privet hedge that separated our garden from the Goldbergs to try to make out what they were up to. I could see a table and folding chairs being carried into the sukkah. All the preparations were made discreetly, so as not to draw attention to this Jewish harvest festival from the passers-by in our neighborhood.

The only sukkah I was familiar with was the shul’s, which we went into to hear Kiddush, and then came home to have lunch in our dining room, as usual. Our neighbors invited us to their sukkah, but I, an only child, was too diffident to go since I didn’t know what might be expected of me. On the rare occasions when I’d made up my mind that, yes, I would take them up on their invitation, rain, which often falls in England during autumn, stopped anyone from going into the sukkah that day.

It was only when I married that being in a sukkah came closer to home. That first Sukkot, we were invited out and enjoyed the informality of eating outside, singing zemirot and looking up at the stars, weather permitting. We were still not thinking in terms of having a sukkah ourselves, but the next year—straight after Yom Kippur—a friend came by and said, “Look, it’ll be so easy for you. You’ve already got two brick walls; we’ll put sheets up for the other two walls and secure them around the middle. I’ll help you, and put strips of wood and branches on the top to make a kosher sukkah.”

Our friend was so enthusiastic and convincing that, on the spur of the moment, we found ourselves going ahead with his plan.

It was a tiny sukkah, but it held three happy and proud people—the two of us, and Grandpa, who was staying with us for the first days of Sukkot. We sat around the table for an hour after we’d finished eating, encouraging Grandpa to sing in his still resonant voice to the tunes that were so much a part of him.

After the success and pleasure of that first sukkah, we took it for granted that the experiment would be repeated. We graduated the next year to a slightly larger sukkah. The year after, when we’d moved, the sukkah was in our own garden shed and was such a tight fit that once our guests were wedged into their places, they had to stay there until the end of the meal. I was strategically placed near the door so that I could ease myself out, go into the house and bring the next course. The last Sukkot we spent in England before moving to Israel, we had eight people around the table at most meals, including our two young daughters.

As for Sukkot in Israel: think lively, colorful, joyous—and in full public view. It’s all done “in the front garden,” on the balcony, on the roof, in the communal garden, in the parking lot or even near the street! Sukkot is the holiday, and almost everyone celebrates. People who don’t consider themselves religious put up a sukkah; very often, it’s the grandchildren who urge them to make one.

For our first Sukkot in Israel, we were blown over by the vibrancy of the chag—something we’d never experienced before in gray and restrained Jewish England. It’s become a yearly pleasure to step into our own sukkah in Jerusalem, host our family, friends and neighbors, and celebrate the mitzvah of this beautiful fall holiday.

That diffident child peering through the fence at her neighbors never dreamed that when she grew up, she would one day have the joy of sitting in her own sukkah year after year.