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Jewish Holidays

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 5778 (2017-18) 5779 (2018-19) 5780 (2019-20) 5781 (2020-21)
Rosh Hashana Sep 21 - 22 Sep 10 - 11 Sep 30 - Oct 1 Sep 19 - 20
Yom Kippur Sep 30 Sep 19 Oct 9 Sep 28
Sukkot Oct 5 - 11 Sep 24 - 30 Oct 14 - 20 Oct 3 - 9
Shmini Atzeret Oct 12 Oct 1 Oct 21 Oct 10
Simchat Torah Oct 13 Oct 2 Oct 22 Oct 12
Hanukkah Dec 13 - 20 Dec 3 - 10 Dec 23 - 30 Dec 11 - 18
Purim Mar 1 Mar 21 Mar 10 Feb 26
Passover (Pesach) Mar 31 - Apr 7 Apr 20 - 27 Apr 9 - 16 Mar 28 - Apr 4
Shavuot May 20 - 21 Jun 9 - 10 May 29 - 30 May 17 - 18
Tish'a B'Av Jul 22 Aug 11 Jul 30 Jul 18

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 5778 (2017-18) 5779 (2018-19) 5780 (2019-20) 5781 (2020-21)
Tu B'Shevat Jan 31 Jan 21 Feb 10 Jan 28
Purim Katan
Feb 19

Shushan Purim Mar 2 Mar 22 Mar 11 Feb 28
Days of the Omer 

Pesach Sheni Apr 29 May 19 May 8 Apr 26
Lag B'Omer May 3 May 23 May 12 Apr 30
Leil Selichot Sep 1 Sep 21 Sep 12 Aug 28

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).

Modern Holidays 5778 (2017-18) 5779 (2018-19) 5780 (2019-20) 5781 (2020-21)
Yom HaShoah Apr 12 May 2 Apr 21 Apr 8
Yom HaZikaron Apr 18 May 8 Apr 28 Apr 14
Yom HaAtzma'ut Apr 19 May 9 Apr 29 Apr 15
Yom Yerushalayim May 13 Jun 2 May 22 May 10

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.

Rosh HaShanah

The celebration of Rosh HaShanah commemorates literally the “head of the year.” Thi...

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur literally means the “Day of Atonement” and is considered the holiest day...

Hanukkah (Chanukah)

Hanukkah or Chanukah is an eight-day holiday of the Jewish faith remembering the rededication o...

Passover (Pesach) - Jewish Holidays

Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, is a major Jewish festival, held each spring to commemorate Isra...
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