Jewish Holidays – Jewish Liturgical Year

Rosh Hashanah (The New Year)
The holiday falls on the 1st day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei and it is the first day of the Jewish calendar year. According to the Gregorian calendar it marks the end of September and the beginning of October. It ushers ten days of repentance (Jamim noraim) culminating at Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. One of the most important elements of the traditional prayer service is blowing the shofar, a ram's horn. The traditional New Year’s food is honey and apples, symbolising the hope for a sweet new year.

Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement)
Falls on the 10th day after Rosh Hashanah. One of the most important obligations concerning Yom Kippur is fasting, from the sunset till the dusk of the following day. The obligation can be broken only should ones life be at risk and the fasting does not involve children, too. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are called The High Holidays

Sukkot (The Feast of Booths)
A seven-day pilgrimage holiday succeeding Yom Kippur. The holiday is commemorated by building a temporary shelter called sukkah symbolising the period the Israelites spent wandering in the desert on their way from the enslavement in Egypt. Sukkot is a joyous holiday celebrating the harvest. The liturgy precepts to get four different plants – lulav (a palm branch), etrog (a lemon-like fruit), hadas (a myrtle branch) and arav (a willow branch) –and use them to greet the four cardinal points as part of the morning service. These plants symbolise the Jewish people. Immediately after the seven days of Sukkot, the Shmini Atzeret holiday is celebrated in galut (outside from Israel), followed by Simchat Torah, the Day of Celebrating the Torah.

Chanukah (the Festival of Lights)
The eight-day candle-lighting holiday commemorating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. In the 2nd century B.C. the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes violated the Jerusalem Temple, which led to the outbreak of the Maccabean revolt. After the Maccabean won, the temple was cleansed and an everlasting flame was set afire in it. It kept burning for 8 days, although the oil should have lasted for a day only. The holiday was thus named after this miracle: the Festival of Lights. The Jewish families light eight-branched candelabrums and meals comprising oil, cakes and doughnuts are eaten.

Tu B’Shvat (the New Year for the Trees)
A springtime holiday celebrating newborn life. In Israel trees are traditionally planted during this holiday. It is also a tradition to eat 15 different fruits, such as dates, figs and St. John's bread.

Purim (the Feast of Lots)
The most joyous holiday in the Jewish liturgical calendar. The holiday commemorating the rescue of the Jews in the Persian Empire from Haman. The name Purim reminds the method of drawing lots by which Haman wanted to determine the day which the intended slaughter should have fallen on. The Book of Esther is read aloud on the holiday. Traditions include organising carnivals and eating hamantashen, a special kind of three-cornered pastry called Haman’s ears.

Pesach (the Feast of Unleavened Bread)
Pesach is an eight-day pilgrimage holiday celebrating the departure of the Israelites from Egypt. After the Ten Blows God sent on Egypt when the pharaoh refused to release the Jews from under his domination, they were finally free to leave. While the holiday lasts, only unleavened bread – matzah – is eaten. The fast of the first-born is preceding the feast; the whole house must be prepared for the holiday, too: it needs to be cleaned of “chametz” (all food fermented or leavened). The rules prescribing the food to be eaten during Pesach are even stricter than those for the rest of the year. On the eve of the holiday a family feast (seder) is observed during which the Haggadah (the story of the Exodus) is read aloud.

Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks)
Shavuot is another pilgrimage holiday. It is celebrated 7 weeks after Pesach, representing the celebrations of harvest, when sacrifices of the first fruit were offered in the Temple. The synagogues are decorated with green twigs in order to emphasize the agricultural meaning of the holiday. The holiday also marks the day the Torah was given at Mount Sinai. As the Torah is compared to mother’s milk, from which the wisdom springs, the tradition is to eat dairy food, cheesecakes, and pancakes with cream cheese.

Tisha B'Av (the Ninth of Av)
The day of commemorating the destruction of the First Temple (in 586 BCE) as well as the destruction of the Second Temple (in 70 CE) in Jerusalem. The day of fasting and mourning is associated with many tragedies the Jewish nation has suffered. It has however also been connected with hope in the recovery of the nation since long ago.
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