Traditional Jewish Holidays
A joyous holiday commemorating the rescue of the Jews of Persia by Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai from the evil Haman. The story is read aloud and when Haman is mentioned in the Megillah (scroll) of Esther, people scream and turn noisemakers called “groggers” to drown out his name. Traditions include parties, dances, putting on plays (shpeils), mishloach manot (gift-giving), and eating hamentashen (three-cornered, fruit-filled pastries).
Celebrates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. At the seder (service and festive meal), the Haggadah (collection of texts and commentaries on the Exodus) is read and symbolic foods are eaten. In remembrance of the departure of the Israelites, who could not wait for their bread to rise before fleeing, matzah (unleavened bread) is eaten for the eight days of Passover. This holiday stresses the value of moving from slavery to freedom for all who are oppressed or enslaved.
Day chosen by the Israeli Knesset in 1951 to mourn the millions killed in the Holocaust. Often commemorated with speeches by survivors and the reading of names.
Celebrates the giving of the Torah at Sinai and the spring harvest. Traditionally, Jews read the Ten Commandments and the Book of Ruth and eat dairy products.
A festive celebration during which individuals contemplate past, present and future actions. Traditional foods include round challah and apples with honey, symbolizing wholeness and sweetness for the new year. The Ten Days of Awe follow, which culminate on Yom Kippur.
One of the holiest days of the Jewish year. Through fasting and prayer, Jews reflect upon their relationships with other people and with God, atoning for wrongdoings and failures to take right action. Ends at sunset with a blast of the shofar (ram's horn).
A seven-day holiday commemorating the fulfillment of God's promise to bring the Israelites to the Promised Land after forty years of wandering. Many people build a sukkah (booth), a temporary structure with a roof made of branches, modeled after the huts constructed in the desert. We also give thanks to God for the bounty of the Earth with prayers and a symbolic shaking of the lulav (an assemblage of palm, willow and myrtle branches) and etrog (a lemon-like fruit).
Celebrates the completion of the annual Torah-reading cycle. After finishing the last sentence of the chapter Devarim (Deuteronomy), the Torah is joyously paraded around the synagogue. The new cycle begins immediately with a reading from Bereshit (Genesis).
An eight-day holiday commemorating the ancient Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks and the miracle of the rededication of the Temple, when oil meant to last for one day burned for eight. Celebrated by lighting candles in a chanukiah (a nine-branched candelabrum), eating latkes (potato pancakes), playing with dreidels (spinning tops) and giving money or gifts. This holiday celebrates the importance of religious freedom.
Biblical in origin, a holiday that celebrates springtime renewal and growth. Traditions include eating fruit and planting trees.
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