This holiday is truly as its name suggests, the joy of Torah. We celebrate the conclusion and beginning of the annual Torah reading cycle. In Israel, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are on one day, following Sukkot while in the Diaspora, the two day holiday is called Shemini Atzeret on the first day and Simhat Torah on the second. It is a major festival, with most prohibitions of work, as on all holidays. Candle lighting is observed as are special prayers in the synagogue, with festive meals or seudahs.
This Yom Tov is especially jubilant with lively dancing and singing during the Hakafos in the shul, holding the Torah scrolls and circling the Bimah, or reading table. Men young and old, carrying their children aloft rejoice together amongst exalted celebratory songs and marches. Children carry special flags and often sweets are distributed symbolizing the sweetness of the Torah. The final Aliyah is read from the last portion of the Torah, and immediately, the first chapter of Bereshit is read.