Judaism

Key Dates and Events

Primary Author
Chara Scroope,

Purim

(Varies each year depending on the lunisolar calendar. Typically in February/March)

Purim is a Jewish holiday, observed on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Adar. The day commemorates when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination by a Jewish woman named Esther, as told in the Book of Esther (Megilla). On this day, it is common for people to congregate at their local synagogue and hear a public reading of the Book of Esther.

Pesach

(Varies each year depending on the lunisolar calendar. Typically in March/April)

Pesach (Passover) is a Jewish holiday that begins on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nisan and lasts for seven to eight days. Celebrations for Passover begin at sunset on the prior day. The event commemorates the exodus of the Israelites from their lives of slavery in Egypt. During Pesach, followers of Judaism are forbidden to eat, drink or own chametz (food that is made from a mixture of grain and water and has been allowed to rise). On the first two days of Pesach, a seder service is held, in which a retelling of the story of the exodus is read from a book called a Haggadah and a ceremonial meal centred around the matzah (unleavened bread) and red wine is consumed. Other activities during Pesach include reciting special prayers, visiting the local synagogue, and listening to public readings of the Torah.

Yom HaShoah

(Varies each year depending on the lunisolar calendar. Typically in May)

Yom HaShoah officially translates as ‘the Day of Remembrance for the Holocaust and Heroism’. It is an occasion to commemorate the lives and heroic acts of the six million Jewish people who died during the Holocaust between 1933 and 1945. The event takes place on the 27th day of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish calendar. Yom HaShoah is usually observed with memorial services. 

Shavuot

(Varies each year depending on the lunisolar calendar. Typically in May-June)

Shavuot is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the day Moshe (Moses) descended from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments/the Torah, marking the covenant between God and the Israelites. The day is observed 50 days after Passover. During Shavuot, many Jewish people take a day off work, attend special prayer services in their local synagogue and partake in a special meal, which is usually made up of dairy. Some Jewish people may read the Torah, the Akdamut or the Book of Ruth throughout the night. Celebrations for Shavuot begin at sunset on the prior day. The period between Passover and Shavuot is known as the Counting of the Omer. This time marks a period of spiritual preparation before Moses received the Torah.

Tisha B’Av

(Varies each year depending on the lunisolar calendar. Typically in July-August)

Tisha B’Av is a Jewish day of mourning, prayer and fasting, observed on the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av. The day commemorates the anniversary of five calamities, which include the destruction of the First and Second Temple. Some Jewish followers may spend the day chanting or reading kinnot (mourning poems or poems that describe sad events such as the destruction of the First and Second Temple, the Crusades and the Holocaust).

Rosh Hashanah

(Varies each year depending on the lunisolar calendar. Typically in September/October)

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, observed on the first day of the Jewish month of Tishrei. The event marks the start of the Ten Days of Penitence, a time of repentance and meditation. A common ritual and custom during Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the shofar, which is the horn of any kosher animal (sheep, goat, antelope or ram).

Yom Kippur

(Varies each year depending on the lunisolar calendar. Typically in September/October)

Yom Kippur is a Jewish event also known as the Day of Atonement, observed on the tenth day of the Jewish month of Tishrei. The event marks the end of the Ten Days of Penitence. Yom Kippur is considered to be the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, during which Jewish communities engage in prayer and fasting to seek atonement and repentance.

Sukkot

(Varies each year depending on the lunisolar calendar. Typically in September/October)

Sukkot, also known as the Festival of Tabernacles, is a seven- to eight-day festival, with celebrations starting on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Tishrei. The festival commemorates the faith and trust in God the people of Israel had when they lived precariously during their 40-year exile in the desert. Some Jewish people may set up booths (sukkot), which act as a symbolic reminder of the huts Israelites lived in during the wilderness years.

Shemini Atzeret

(Varies each year depending on the lunisolar calendar. Typically in September/October)

Shemini Atzeret is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the end of the Festival of Tabernacles. There are generally no special rituals on Shemini Atzeret except for a special prayer for rain called ‘Geshem’ (‘Rain’) that is recited during an additional service. Some places celebrate Shemini Atzeret and Simhat Torah on the same day.

Simchat Torah

(Varies each year depending on the lunisolar calendar. Typically in September/October)

Simchat Torah (‘Rejoicing of the Law’) is a Jewish holiday that marks the end of the yearly cycle of readings from the Torah and the start of a new reading cycle. It is a joyous occasion filled with singing, dancing and processions in the local synagogue. Some places celebrate Simchat Torah and Shemini Atzeret on the same day.

Chanukah

(Varies each year depending on the lunisolar calendar. Typically in December)

Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish eight-day event celebrated between the end of the month of Kislev and the beginning of Tevet in the Jewish calendar. The event commemorates the struggles for religious freedom of the Jewish people, as well as the recapture and rededication of the Jerusalem Temple. On each night of the eight-day festival, an additional candle is lit on the Chanukah Menorah (candelabrum with nine candle holders). A special prayer is recited when a candle is lit. While the candle burns, people sing songs and play games, including the four-sided spinning top known as the dreidel. Jewish families will also give gifts, especially to children, and decorate their homes in a festive manner. Traditionally at Chanukah, foods cooked in oil are eaten to recall the miracle of the one day of oil, which lasted for eight days.

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