How To Understand Jewish Holidays

Judaism is one of the world's oldest religions. Since people of Jewish faith can be found all over the world, it is almost imperative to be aware of Jewish holidays as well as the significance of these dates to people follow this way of life.

The Jewish Calendar. The first thing that a non-Jewish person would notice about Jewish holidays is that they seem to happen on different days every year. From the perspective of a Jewish person, however, these holidays occur on precisely the same day. This is because the followers of Judaism follow a different calendar. This system of keeping time is based on the cycles of the moon rather than the revolution of the Earth around the sun.  This is reminiscent of the Chinese calendar that also follows the phases of the moon to track the passage of time. The Jewish calendar is shorter by 11 days as compared to the Gregorian calendar, but every two to three years, a month is added to the calendar as well.

The Jewish "day." Jews also have a different concept of a "day." Instead of starting the new day from the strike of midnight, most Jewish people consider the sunset of the day before as the actual start of a holiday. This makes the holidays in the Jewish calendar last a little bit longer than the holidays that non-Jewish people are used to.

Popular Jewish Holidays

The Passover is a celebration of the Exodus of the Jewish slaves from Europe. This holiday is celebrated for seven to eight days and always starts during a night in April when the moon is full.

Jewish people celebrate this holiday by holding a ritual dinner called a seder on the first or second night of Passover. Most followers also abstain from eating bread and grain throughout this occasion in commemoration of the hardships that their Jewish ancestors had to withstand to win freedom. It is also a tribute to how quickly their ancestors had to leave the camps in Egypt. Other events that would involve food are usually postponed to later dates during Passover. Travel is likewise rescheduled.

Some Jews may choose to not work, go to school or do anything that is outside of the bare essentials during the first two days of the occasion.

The Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah. This is the day when the year number on the Jewish calendar goes up by one. Compared to Passover, this holiday is decidedly more festive and more geared towards merry-making, though still not as flamboyant as an American New Year's or Fourth of July.

Yom Kippur is a day of fasting that is meant to make Jews repent for their sins and reconnect with their God for the mistakes they've done in the past year. Jews are expected to fast for 25 hours during this occasion.

Channukkah is the festival of lights that relives the return to glory of the Temple of Jerusalem after a revolt against a Grecian tribe.

These occasions may seem very foreign to a non-Jewish person, but with enough open-mindedness, one can also appreciate this very interesting culture and way of life.


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