Jewish Holidays: A calendar rich with tradition

Both majestic and perplexing all at the same time, the Jewish Calendar is a blend of rituals and traditions for the home and community. The beauty of the retelling the Passover story around the family table, the power of the cantor leading a congregation in prayer on Rosh HaShanah, the joy of children eating Hamantaschen on Purim ... all come together to form our rich and beautiful Jewish culture.

Below are descriptions and links about the major Jewish holidays. Links for additional resources appear at the bottom of the page.

  • Shabbat

    The most important holiday in the Jewish calendar. It commemorates God's day of rest on the seventh day of Creation.

  • Rosh Hashanah

    The Jewish New Year begins a ten-day period of repentance and prayer that ends on Yom Kippur. Celebrated with synagogue attendance, feasts, and apples dipped in honey to the hope for a sweet year to come.

  • Yom Kippur

    The Day of Atonement is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, marking the end of the ten day period of repentance. It is spent in fasting and prayer. The end of the holiday is signaled by the sounding of the shofar (ram's horn).

  • Sukkot

    The Festival of Tabernacles is named for the booths the Jews lived in during their Exodus from Egypt. Commemorated with temporary dwellings decorated with fruits and vegetables, the holiday is also marked by processions with the lulav (palm branch with myrtle and willow) and etrog (citron fruit).

  • Simchat Torah

    Rejoicing for the Torah marks the end of the annual Torah reading and the beginning of the new cycle for the coming year. Celebrated with singing, processions with the Torahs, and flags. Reform Jews celebrate this along with Shemini Atzeret.

  • Hanukkah

    Festival of Lights celebrates a miracle. In 165 BCE, the Maccabees led a band of Jews in battle against invading pagans who had desecrated the Temple. They found only one day's supply of oil for the Temple's eternal light. Miraculously, the supply lasted eight days, until more was procured. A menorah is lit for eight nights; dreidle games and food fried in oil are customary.

  • Purim

    The Feast of Lots recalls the rescue of Jews from annihilation in ancient Persia, as recorded in the Book of Esther. Celebrated with festivity, costumes, and noisemakers, and the reading of the Megillah of Esther. Mishloach manot (gift packages) are exchanged and gifts are given to the poor. The Fast of Esther is the day before Purim.

  • Passover

    Passover is named after the "passing over" by the almighty of the Israelites' homes during the tenth plague. Eight-day festival celebrating the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt.

  • Lag B'Omer

    33rd Day of the Counting of the Omer is a day of tribute to Jewish martyrs and mystics.

  • Shavuot

    Festival of Weeks marks the end of the counting of the Omer, which began on the second night of Passover and recalls Moses' receiving of the Torah and the Ten Commandments. The Megillah of Ruth is read. All night study of the Torah is customary. Confirmation ceremonies, dairy foods, honey, and floral decorations mark this holiday. Observed by Reform Jews for one day.

  • Tisha B'Av

    Fast of the Ninth of Av is a day of mourning to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, many of which coincidentally have occurred on the ninth of Av.