Jews celebrate the many special holidays that are recognised by Judaism, the religion of the Jewish people, as well as observing the Sabbath, called Shabbat in Hebrew, every Saturday. Each holiday celebrates a significant event in the history of the religion, and is celebrated on a particular day or period of days.
The Jewish holidays are held on fixed days in the Jewish calendar. The Jewish calendar has a different number of days than the Gregorian calendar because the Jewish calendar is tied to the moon’s cycles instead of the sun’s cycles. The Jewish calendar loses about 11 days relative to the solar Gregorian calendar every year, but makes up for it by adding a month every two or three years.
The Jewish months have the following names and lengths:
- Nissan: 30 days
- Iyar: 29 days
- Sivan: 30 days
- Tammuz: 29 days
- Av: 30 days
- Elel: 29 days
- Tishri: 30 days
- Cheshvan: 29 or 30 days
- Kislev: 30 or 29 days
- Tevet: 29 days
- Shevat: 30 days
- Adar I (leap years only): 30 days
- Adar, called Adar Beit in leap years): 29 years
Jewish holidays begin on the evening of the day before the official date of the holiday. For example, if Passover starts on April 24, families will be getting together for Passover dinner on the night of April 23.
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New year. It is the first of the High Holidays, or High Holy Days, and is celebrated on the first 2 days of Tishri, the seventh month of the Jewish Calendar.
Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is one of the holiest days of the year for the Jewish people. Yom Kippur completes the annual period known as the High Holidays, or High Holy Days. Yom Kippur’s themes are atonement and repentance. By tradition, Jews observe Yom Kippur with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending much of the day in Synagogue services.
Sukkot, the Festival of Booths, commemorates the Biblical period of wandering in the desert, and is commemorated by building a temporary shelter, called a sukkah, and eating meals in it. Some spend considerable time in the sukkah, even sleeping there. Sukkot begins on the fifth day after Yom Kippur and lasts for 7 days.
Shemini Atzeret, the Eight day of Assembly, immediately follows Sukkot, but is as separate holiday. The Sukkah is no longer required.
Simchat Torah is a celebration marking the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings in Sabbath services, and the beginning of a new cycle. Simchat Torah immediately follows Shemini Atzeret. Some branches on the Jewish faith celebrate both holidays on the same day.
Chanukkah, or Hanukkah. also known as the Festival of Lights, is an 8-day holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
For more information and Chanukkah, see Hanukkah or The Festival of Lights Worldwide and in the UK.
Tu B’Shevat is a minor Jewish holiday that marks the “New Year of the Trees”. Customs include planting trees and eating dried fruits and nuts, especially figs, dates, raisins, carob, and almonds. In Israel, the flowering of the almond tree, which grows wild around the country, coincides with Tu B’Shevat.
Purim is a festival celebrating the rescue of the Jews living in the Ancient Persian Empire from a ploy by Haman the Agagite to kill them, according to the Book of Esther in the Bible.
Pesach (Passover) commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nissan, and is celebrated for seven or eight days.
Lag B’Omer is a Jewish holiday celebrated on the thirty-third day of the Counting of the Omer, which is a verbal counting of each of the 49 days between the holidays of Pesach and Shavu’ot, that occurs on the 18th day of Iyar.
Shavu’ot commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to the entire Israelite nation assembled at Mount Sinai. Shavu’ot is celebrated on the 6th day of Sivan.
Tisha B’Av is an annual fast day, named for the ninth day (Tisha) of the month of Av. The fast commemorates the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, which occurred about 656 years apart, but on the same Hebrew calendar date.
Jewish Holidays 2017
- Rosh Hashanah: September 9, 2017
- Yom Kippur: September 18, 2017
- Sukkot: September 23, 2017
- Shemini Atzeret: September 30, 2017
- Simchat Torah: October 1, 2017
- Chanukkah: December 2, 2017
- Tu B’Shevat: January 20, 2018
- Purim: March 20, 2018
- Pesach (Passover): April 19, 2018
- Lag B’Omer: May 22, 2018
- Shavu’ot: June 8, 2018
- Tisha B’Av: August 9, 2018
Jewish Holidays 2018
- Rosh Hashanah: September 29, 2018
- Yom Kippur: October 8, 2018
- Sukkot: October 13, 2018
- Shemini Atzeret: October 20, 2018
- Simchat Torah: October 21, 2018
- Chanukkah: December 21, 2018
- Tu B’Shevat: February 8, 2019
- Purim: March 8, 2019
- Pesach (Passover): April 7, 2019
- Lag B’Omer: May 10, 2019
- Shavu’ot: May 27, 2019
- Tisha B’Av: July 28, 2019
Jewish Hoildays 2019
- Rosh Hashanah: Spetember 17 2019
- Yom Kippur: September 26, 2019
- Sukkot: October 1, 2019
- Shemini Atzeret: October 8, 2019
- Simchat Torah: October 9, 2019
- Chanukkah: December 9, 2019
- Tu B’Shevat: January 26, 2013
- Purim: February 24, 2013
- Pesach (Passover): March 26, 2013
- Lag B’Omer: April 28, 2013
- Shavu’ot: May 15, 2013
- Tisha B’Av: July 16, 2013