Bitesize Guide to Jewish Holidays

Want to know more about Jewish holidays? Look no further- here’s a list of the main Jewish holidays, their dates in the Jewish calendar and a brief explanation about each one.

  • Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first and second days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. The festival is considered the Jewish New Year and marks the beginning of the High Holy Days. The day is both solemn and joyous- on the one hand Jewish people believe that on this day every creature in the world comes before G-d in judgment and is written in the book of life or death. On the other hand, it is the day of the coronation of the King, G-d and marks the re-acceptance of the Jewish people of G-d over them.
  • Yom Kippur takes place on the tenth of Tishrei. It is the most solemn day of the year and is the day on which creatures are no longer written but inscribed in the book of life or death. Yom Kippur is a fast day which begins the night before- on the night of the ninth of Tishrei. It is a day of prayer, spent in synagogue.
  • Sukkot starts on the fifteenth of Tishrei and lasts seven or eight days (in Israel and in the Diaspora respectively). The festival marks the booths that the Jewish people lived in during their wanderings for forty years in the desert after being exiled from Egypt and before reaching the Holy Land of Israel. For seven (or eight) days, Jewish people eat all of their meals in temporary dwellings that they build especially for the festival.
  • Hanukkah starts on the twenty-fifth day of the Hebrew month of Kislev in the winter. The eight-day festival is commemorated each night with the lighting of the Menorah, a special nine-branched candelabra. Fried foods are traditionally eaten on Hanukkah due to the miracle of the festival being connected to olive oil. Dreidels are spinning tops that are traditionally played with on Hanukkah.
  • Purim occurs on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people from Haman, a wicked vizier of the Persian Empire who plotted to exterminate the Jewish people. His plan failed and until this day, Jewish people celebrated the day on which he planned to kill them. The traditions of the day are fancy dress, a festive meal, giving gifts to the poor and hearing the miraculous story read in the synagogue.
  • Passover is the festival that takes place in the spring. It celebrates the redemption of the Jewish people from ancient Egypt. Passover starts on the fifteenth of Nissan and lasts seven (in Israel) or eight (in the Diaspora) days. Jewish people do not eat or derive any benefit from leavened products on this festival due to the unleavened bread that they took with them in their hurry to leave Egypt. Passover is celebrated by the Jewish people as the festival of freedom.
  • Shavuot takes place on the sixth day of the month of Sivan and celebrates the giving of the Torah- the Bible by G-d to the Jewish people.

Read more about Hanukkah in our blog

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