The origin of Jewish festivals dates back to antiquity.
Jewish celebrations are often linked to the commemoration of biblical events, founding historical events or linked to the cycle of nature. Jewish holidays are landmarks that punctuate the year by inviting spiritual and religious practice. These different festivals are celebrated through rites and customs, demonstrations of joy, prayer or even fasting.
Jewish holidays follow the rhythm of the Hebrew calendar, which is a lunisolar calendar. Indeed, the Jewish year is based on the annual cycle of the sun and the months are defined by the cycle of the phases of the moon. Thus, to avoid the gap with the rhythm of the seasons, every 3 years, an additional month is added to the calendar: this is the month of Adar.
In this article, you will learn about the main Jewish holidays and their religious meanings.
At the end of the article, you will find a calendar of the next Jewish holidays in 2022.
The main Jewish holidays
Shabbat begins Friday at sundown and continues all day Saturday until three stars can be seen in the sky. It marks the 7th day of the week. In Genesis, the Shabbat reminds us that Gd made the heavens and the earth in six days and ceased on the seventh day. It is the day when G‑d marks a withdrawal, a distancing from his work.
By respecting Shabbat, man imitates his creator by stopping all work as soon as night falls. It is an act of faith and recognition of the divine.
Shabbat begins with Kiddush, recited by the host before the first meal on Friday evening.
Shabbat is a day of celebration and rejoicing. Shabbat participants have an obligation to enjoy this day. For this, we celebrate Shabbat with good food (3 meals better than the others), beautiful clothes, and unpleasant conversations are to be banned.
Spending time with family, resting, reading, studying, and discussing Torah are strongly encouraged activities on Shabbat.
Purim is the happiest of Jewish holidays. Celebrated 1 month and a day before Passover, it commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in Ancient Persia, and in particular the heroism of Queen Esther and the leader of the Jewish people, Mordechai.
During Purim, it is customary to read the Megillah (which tells the story of the Purim miracle), to donate money to the poor, to 'gift two types of food to at least one person and throw a big, happy family feast that includes wine.
According to the Hebrew calendar, Passover begins on 15 Nissan and lasts for 8 days.
Pesach or Passover is an important religious commemoration. A significant event in history is celebrated: the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt and the birth of Israel.
A number of foods are prohibited: anything containing sourdough is replaced by unleavened bread.
The Jewish holiday of Passover is particularly celebrated during the Seder meal. The Seder is a family and/or community ceremony composed of 15 steps defined by Halakha (Jewish law). The Seder plate consists of six foods: Zeroa (lamb bone), egg, bitter herbs, romaine lettuce, a non-bitter vegetable (boiled potato, celery, carrot..), Haroset (mixture of dried fruits and wine).
Children occupy an important place during the Seder meal Stories are told to remember the end of the slavery of the Jewish people in Egypt and to provoke questions from the youngest. Indeed, during the meal, it is important to transmit the story, while explaining the meaning of Passover and its customs around the Seder.
Roch Hashanah, meaning “head of the year” marks the Jewish New Year. Celebrated on 1 and 2 Tishri, it corresponds to the anniversary of the creation of the universe. On Rosh Hashanah, we celebrate the omnipotence of Gd and our servitude to him. Besides, it is also a good time to pray to the Almighty to grant us a year of prosperity and success. During these two days of celebration, we take festive meals, cease all forms of creative work, and dedicate ourselves to prayer.
It is customary to listen to the Shofar (ram's horn), to observe the Tashlikh (to go near a stream to pour the contents of one's pockets into it), and to eat apples dipped in honey to spend a sweet and happy year.
A day of fasting and atonement, Yom Kippur is the holiest day on the calendar. This is the day when we are closest to the divine.
Like Shabbat, on Yom Kippur no work should be done and strict fasting should be observed for 26 hours. It is also forbidden to bathe, have marital relations, or use electrical appliances. Yom Kippur is dedicated to prayer and introspection. Indeed, during this holy day, it is appropriate to spend the day in the synagogue and to recite psalms during free time.
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday, celebrated in the heart of winter, it begins on 25 Kislev and lasts eight days.
Considered the Jewish Christmas, Hanukkah celebrates the inauguration of the second temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BC, after the Jewish people successfully fought the formidable Greek army and regained possession of the Holy Temple.
Another miracle is celebrated during Hanukkah: the miracle of the vial. Indeed, once in the temple, the group of faithful Jews wanted to light the Menorah. They realized that there was only one vial of oil left. The vial burned for 8 days instead of 1 day.
This is why Hanukkah is also called “the festival of lights” and the lighting of the Menorah (also called Hanukkah) is an important ritual during this holiday.
Calendar of Jewish holidays in 2022
To make sure you don't miss any dates, here is the calendar of Jewish holidays in 2022.
Shabbat: every Friday evening at sunset
Roch Chodesh: every new moon
10 Tevet: no date in 2022
Tu B'Shvat: Monday, January 17, 2022
Purim katan: Tuesday, February 15, 2022
Shushan Purim katan: Wednesday, February 16, 2022
Fasting of Esther: Wednesday, March 16, 2022
Purim: Thursday, March 17, 2022
Fasting of the firstborn: Friday, April 15, 2022
Passover: Saturday April 16 to Saturday April 23, 2022
Yom HaShoah: Thursday, April 28, 2022
Yom Ha'atzmaut: Thursday, May 5, 2022
Passover Sheni: Sunday, May 15, 2022
Lag Ba'omer: Thursday, May 19, 2022
Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim) : Sunday, May 29, 2022
Shavuot: Sunday 5 and Monday 6 June 2022
17 Tammuz: Sunday July 17, 2022
Tisha Beav: Sunday August 7, 2022
In Paris, starting on Saturday at 9:23 p.m. and ending on Sunday at 10 p.m. :07
Tou be’av: Friday, August 12, 2022
Roch Hashanah: Monday September 26 and Tuesday September 27, 2022
Gedalia Fast: Wednesday, September 28, 2022
Yom Kippur: Wednesday, October 5, 2022
In Paris, beginning Tuesday at 7:07 p.m. and ending Wednesday at 8 p.m. :08
Sukkot: from Sunday evening, October 9, to Tuesday, October 18, 2022
Shemini Atzeret: Monday 17 and Tuesday 18 October 2022
Simchat Torah: Tuesday, October 18, 2022
Hanukkah: from Sunday evening, December 18, to Monday, December 26, 2022