Jews celebrate the important events of Jewish history throughout the year. The Jewish Sabbath or Shabbat begins at sundown Friday night and ends at nightfall on Saturday. This day of rest is one of the most important holy days in the Jewish calendar and it's considered a holiday.
What and when are the main Jewish Festivals?
Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) is celebrated to commemorate the liberation of the Children of Israel who were led out of Egypt by Moses.
It is a major eight day festival. A highlight is the Seder meal held in each family's home at the beginning of the festival, when the story of their deliverance is recounted as narrated in the Haggadah (the Telling, the Story). Matzah (unleavened bread) is eaten throughout the festival, as are other foods that contain no leaven. There is a great spring cleaning in the home before the festival to ensure that no trace of leaven is left in the home during Pesach.
Rosh Hashanah - Jewish New Year
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year festival and commemorates the creation of the world.
This festival marks the Jewish New Year and begins with ten days of repentance and self examination, during which time God sits in judgement on every person. The festival is also known as the Day of Judgement, the Day of the Sounding of the Shofar, and the Day of Remembrance.
Over the two days of Rosh Hashanah, there are special services at the synagogue. A musical instrument, called a shofar, is blown. It makes a loud piercing sound like a trumpet and reminds Jews of God's great power.
People east slices of apple dipped in honey. This is a way of wishing each other a sweet and happy New Year.
Happy New Year - 'Leshanah Tovah Tikatev'
Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement
Yom Kippur, the most sacred and solemn day of the Jewish year, brings the Days of Repentance to a close.
As well as fasting for 25 hours, Jews spend the day in prayer, asking for forgiveness and resolving to behave better in the future.
Sukkot / Sukkoth
Sukkot commemorates the years that the Jews spent in the desert on their way to the Promised Land. Some lived in tents whilst others built huts out of leaves and branches. These huts were called sukkah.
During the festival, some Jews build their own sukkah in the garden or at the synagogue. Jews eat their meals in the sukkah for the eight or nine days of the festival.
There are rules to making the sukkah. Each sukkah must have at least three walls. The roof of the sukkah must be made of material referred to as sekhakh, which means "covering." Thie 'covering' must be something that grew from the ground and was cut off, such as tree branches, corn stalks, bamboo reeds or sticks. Sekhakh (the roof covering) should be sparse and left loose enough so that the stars can be seen.
There is a special Sukkot service in the synagogue. Everyone holds branches from three trees in their hands and a citron fruit in their right. They walk around the synagogue seven times, waving the branches.
Hanukkah or Chanukah is the Jewish Festival of Lights. It dates back to two centuries before the beginning of Christianity. It is an eight day holiday starting on the 25th night of the Jewish month of Kislev
Hanukka celebrates the miraculous victory over religious persecution in the Holy Land and also commemorates the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the miracle of the burning oil. This is where the oil of the menorah (the candelabrum in the temple) miraculously burned for eight days, even though there was only enough oil for one day.
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