The Jewish calendar is based on a lunar calendar. For that reason, each holiday is celebrated at approximately the same time every year, but not necessarily on the same date of the Gregorian calendar.
All Jewish holidays begin the evening before the date specified on most calendars. This is because a Jewish “day” begins and ends at sunset, rather than at midnight.
ROSH HASHANAH (Jewish New Year)
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. Traditions include eating apples dipped in honey and blowing the shofar (ram’s horn). Most Jews attend synagogue on this day and the preceding evening.
YOM KIPPUR (Day of Atonement)
Yom Kippur is considered by Jews to be the holiest and most solemn day of the year. Fasting begins at sundown and ends after nightfall the following day. Most Jews attend synagogue on this day and the preceding evening.
SUKKOT (Feast of Tabernacles)
Sukkot is a seven-day festival, also known as the Feast or Festival of Booths, the Feast of Tabernacles, or just Tabernacles. It is one of three pilgrimage festivals mentioned in the Bible. Sukkot is celebrated by the building of a sukkah, or temporary dwelling, outdoors.
SHEMINI ATZERET (Eighth Day of Sukkot)
This holiday immediately follows the conclusion of the holiday of Sukkot.
SIMCHAT TORAH (Rejoicing of the Law)
This holiday immediately follows the holidays of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret. It concludes and begins anew the annual reading cycle of the Torah, the Five Books of Moses that make up a portion of the Jewish Bible.
CHANUKAH (Festival of Lights)
Chanukah (or Hanukkah) is an eight-day festival marked by the lighting of candles—one on the first night, two on the second and so on—using a special candle holder called a menorah or chanukiah. Although not a major Jewish holiday, its popularity has increased in recent years, especially among American Jews. Traditions include a game involving spinning of dreidels (tops), eating potato latkes (pancakes), and giving gifts.
Purim is one of the most joyous Jewish holidays. Purim commemorates the events that took place in the Book of Esther. Traditions include masquerading in costumes and giving care packages to those in need.
Passover commemorates the liberation of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. A feast called a seder is held on the first two nights and sometimes on the final two nights of the eight-day holiday. No leavened food (e.g., bread, cake) is eaten during Passover. Matzo (unleavened bread) is consumed instead.
SHAVUOT (Feast of Weeks)
Shavuot is also known as “Pentecost.” According to Rabbinic tradition, the Ten Commandments were given on this day. It is traditional to eat meals containing dairy during Shavuo