Judaism is filled with rich traditions and customs that are most obvious during the religious holidays. Each Jewish holiday is generally classified and placed into one of three different categories (major, minor and modern), which helps to indicate the level of observance. More specifically, each holiday demonstrates the origin of longstanding rituals and practices unique to the Jewish faith. In general, the customs presented and observed during each holiday often relate to and connect in some way to Jewish life, occasions and life-cycle events. Most notable are the observances of certain rituals during the first Jewish mourning period, the shiva.

Certain holidays serve to celebrate the power of God that is representative and understood throughout the history of Judaism. Other holidays serve to remember and reflect upon the lessons learned from the struggles and challenges of life. Lastly, there are certain holidays intended to engage in celebrations and festivities of joy.

As the Jewish year unfolds, there is a structured way that etches the lessons of life upon the heart. In addition, during holidays and other life-cycle events Judaism sets forth a unique and prescribed series of rituals, customs and traditions for honoring and commemorating loved ones who are no longer here.

When learning about the history of each holiday, along with its rituals and practices it is important to understand the calculation of dates according to the Hebrew calendar. In particular, Jewish holidays can be a challenge, especially for those who are not familiar with the Jewish calendar and traditions because the dates always appear to be changing. In order to follow the ever-changing timing of Jewish holidays and the calculation of Jewish events, it is useful to know the differences between the Hebrew and Gregorian (civil) calendar and the strong connections to Jewish holidays.

As referenced above, Jewish holidays are generally categorized into three fields: major holidays, minor holidays, and modern holidays. All holidays are celebrated from sundown to sundown and the origin of each holiday is strongly connected to the Jewish calendar. On the chart below, please find a list of the Jewish holidays and note that each holiday begins at sundown on the evening before the date specified in the table.

Major Jewish Holidays

Major Jewish holidays are so designated because of their place and position in Biblical history. There are ten holidays that fall into this category. Within this group, there are several more distinct groupings. Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) are considered High Holy Days (or High Holidays). The Three Pilgrimage Festivals, originally designated because they were supposed to be celebrated in Jerusalem, refers to Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot holidays.

Major Holidays 5784 (2023-2024) 5785 (2024-2025) 5786 (2025-2026) 5787 (2026-2027)
Rosh Hashanah Sep 15 - 17 Oct 2 - 4 Sep 22 - Sep 24 Sep 11 - 13
Yom Kippur Sep 24 - 25 Oct 11 - 12 Oct 1 - 2 Sep 20 - 21
Sukkot Sep 29 - Oct 1  Oct 16 -18 Oct 6 - 8  Sep 25 - 27
Shmini Atzeret Oct 6 - 7 Oct 23 Oct 13 Oct 2 
Simchat Torah Oct 7 - 8 Oct 23 - 25 Oct 13 - 15 Oct 2 - 4
Hanukkah Dec 7 - 15 Dec 25 - Jan 2  Dec 14 - 22 Dec 4 - 12
Purim Mar 23 - 24
Mar 13 - 14 Mar 2 - 3 Mar 22 -23
Passover (Pesach) Apr 22 - 30 Apr 12 - 20
Apr 1 - 9
Apr 21 - 29
Shavuot Jun 11 - 13 Jun 1 - 3
May 21 - 23
Jun 10 - 12
Tish'a B'Av Aug 12 - 13 Aug 2 - 3
Jul 22 - 23
Aug 11 - 12

Within Judaism it is important to have a connection to history, family and maintain a strong tie to the community. Jewish holidays often provide time to perpetuate traditions and ensure that loved ones are properly commemorated and remembered. In fact, during the holidays, there are special prayers and services held to honor and commemorate loved ones. Participating in a Yizkor Service (a public mourning service recited by those who have lost a parent, spouse or other close relative) is a traditional prayer service recited after the Torah readings on Yom Kippur, on the last day of Passover, on the second day of Shavout and on the eighth day of Sukkot. These days provide designated time and opportunity to honor and commemorate the lives of family and close loved ones who are departed.

Minor Jewish Holidays

Minor Jewish holidays may have a basis in the Biblical text, but are developed and understood through the writings of the Talmud and other rabbinical literature. There are just over a handful of these days, many of which have significance in the shadow of major holidays.

Minor Holidays 5774 (2013-14) 5774 (2013-15) 5774 (2013-16) 5774 (2013-17)
Tu Bishvat Jan 16 Feb 4 Jan 25 Feb 11
Purim Katan Feb 14
Feb 23
Shushan Purim Mar 17 Mar 6 Mar 25 Mar 13
Days of the Omer 

Pesach Sheni May 14 May 3 May 22 May 10
Lag B'Omer May 18 May 7 May 26 May 14
Leil Selichot Sep 20 Sep 5 Sep 24 Sep 16

Modern Jewish Holidays

Modern Jewish holidays comprise the last grouping. Since Israel became a recognized state in 1948 following World War II, the Knesset or national legislature of Israel, along with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, have established four national holidays. Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Memorial Day), Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day), and Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day).

Major Holidays 5774 (2013-14) 5774 (2013-15) 5774 (2013-16) 5774 (2013-17)
Yom HaShoah Apr 28 Apr 16 May 5 Apr 24
Yom HaZikaron May 5 Apr 22 May 11 May 1
Yom HaAtzma'ut May 6 Apt 23 May 12 May 12
Yom Yerushalayim May 28 May 17 Jun 5 May 24

Each of the Jewish holidays carries its own customs and traditions regarding the celebration of the event. Many of the holidays may be observed differently by the different strands of Judaism.