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Judaism: Festivals & Celebrations

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Whenever I think of Festivals and Celebrations, I always think of happiness, laughter and most importantly food! After all, what is a celebration without food? My Aunt is Jewish and lives in a suburb of Johannesburg called Sydenham. It’s a Jewish community and when I get the opportunity to visit her I get to learn more about the Jewish cultures and beliefs especially when it comes to their “Festivals & Celebrations”. Like my aunt always says: “you cannot practice the Jewish religion or their culture without experiencing their food”. Below I will give examples of the Jewish Festivals and explain why and how they celebrate each of the seven festivals.


Date celebrated​: Wednesday 8 April to Thursday 16 April 2020. It’s a 7-day celebration and normally in April. Why do they celebrate Passover? The celebration of Spring! The Jews celebrate their journey from slavery to freedom. Food for celebration during Pesach: No bread or pasta. They eat Eggs, lettuce, Shank bones, mixture of apple, nuts and wine, boiled potatoes, bitter herbs such as parsley (symbolise the bitterness of slavery).

Rosh Hashanah – The Jewish New Year

Date celebrated​: Friday 8 September 2020 – Sunday 20 September 2020 Rosh Hashanah, meaning head of the year, is the Jewish New Year or “day of shouting or blasting”. It is the first Jewish holy day. Many people send cards for Rosh Hashanah. Food for celebration during Rosh Hashanah: Apples dipped in honey symbolise a sweet new year. Fish symbolise “they swim in schools” and “breed in plenty”. Pomegranates symbolise blessings. Beetroot symbolises that God will remove your enemies. Jews also blew on a ram’s horn which symbolises a new moon, holiday or war. The notes of the shofar are like the sound of a person crying, to show that they are sorry for their wrong-doings and long to return to God.

Yom Kippur – Day of atonement

Date celebrated​: Sunday 27 September 2020 to Monday 28 September 2020 Each year you reflect on your sin by fasting and praying. On the night before Yom Kippur, people will visit neighbours and apologise if they had an argument. Traditional food eaten during Yom Kippur: Rice, dumplings, chicken or fish. Meals must be prepared with a minimum of salt as this could cause dehydration during the fast.

Sukkot – Festival of shelters

Date celebrated​: Friday 2 October 2020 to Friday 9 October 2020 Sukkot is one of three festivals, called pilgrim festivals. The other two pilgrim festivals are Pesach and Shavuot. Sukkot is also known as a harvest festival. Sukkot means booths or huts. A reminder of how they use to live on their long journeys.

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Hanukkah (Festival of lights)

Date Celebrated​: Thursday 10 December 2020 until Friday 18 December 2020 Hanukkah lasts for eight days and reminds Jews of a great miracle which happened in the Temple of Jerusalem more than 2000 years ago. The Hebrew word Hanukkah means dedication because this was when the Jews dedicated their Temple to God again. Hanukkah is celebrated because the Jews celebrate the victory of the Maccabees (a group of Jewish rebel warriors) over the large Syrian army. Traditional food eaten during Hanukkah: Potato pancakes, Brisket, Kugel, Donuts. During Hanukkah, people play traditional games, such as dreidel.

Tisha B’av:​ (The Jewish day of mourning / or the saddest day on Jewish calendar)

Date celebrated​: Wed 29 July 2020 until Thurs 30 July 2020 Tisha B’av is an annual fast day on which a lot of disasters happened. On this day the destruction of both the First Temple and the Second Temple. On this day the Jews fast.

Tu B’Shevat:​ (New Year of the Trees)

Date celebrated​: Sunday 9 February 2020 to Monday 10 February 2020 Why do they celebrate Tu B’Shevat? Jews are reminded to look after the earth. Therefore trees are planted in celebration. Those who partake eat 15 different kinds of fruits and vegetables (also 7 species mentioned in the Torah). Wheat, barley, figs, grapes, pomegranate, olives and dates.

Yom Hashoah:​ (Holocaust Remembrance Day)

Date celebrated​: Monday 20 April 2020 to Tuesday 21 April 2020 It’s a memorial of about 6 million Jews who were slaughtered by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. Many countries have now adopted a national day of remembrance and mourning for the victims. In Israel, Holocaust Day occurs on the 27 Nissan. The main ceremony is broadcast from Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, in the morning. At 10am, the sirens are sounded, marking two minutes of national silence and stillness, during which all transportation comes to a halt.


When I did my research, I realised that the Jews had been through so much pain and suffering. But still today the Jews are committed and stronger together with their families believing in their faith as the chosen people of God.


  1. Online​: (​​)
  2. Library book​: Festivals of the World (Illustrated Guide to Celebrations)
  3. Library Book​: Jewish Festivals Through the Year – A year of Festivals
  4. Interview: Telephonic discussion with my Aunt Jackie Ritz

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Judaism: Festivals & Celebrations. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 27, 2023, from
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