Jewish festivals and celebrations center
around important events in the history of the Jews.
•Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year festival which usually takes place in
September or October.
•Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement during which Jewish people fast, pray,
and atone for their sins, asking God for forgiveness. This happens ten days
after Rosh Hashanah.
•Passover or Pesach is in the Spring and marks the liberation of the Jews
from slavery in Egypt, the giving of the ten commandments and the journey to
Israel. The Hagaddah, which is the story of the exodus from Egypt, is read at
this celebration, which takes the form of a ritual meal. There are many
ritual objects which enable the family to experience the Exodus as they sit
around the dinner table.
•Hanukkah is the festival of lights. It is held in late November or December.
When the temple was rededicated after a period of persecution, the eternal
light was rekindled but there was only enough oil for a few days.
Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, until more oil could be found.
The Menorah, a candelabra with eight candles representing the eight days,
plus an additional candle to light the others, is a central focus for prayers
said during the nights of Hanukkah.
Important passges in Jewish life are marked by special observances. There are
specific traditions for the birth of a child and for when someone dies.
Bar mitzvah and Bat mitzvah ceremonies mark a child's thirteenth birthday (in
some traditions, a girl's twelfth birthday). The first act of adulthood is
reading from the Torah scroll during services.
All Jewish holy days begin at sundown and end at sundown. The Shabbat begins
at sundown each Friday and lasts until dark on Saturday. There is a special
Sabbath meal which includes special foods, songs and readings and prayers.
Families hold this ceremony together, beginning with the blessing of Shabbat
candles, wine and bread (challah).