Jewish Greens copy

jewish festivals

This information about Jewish Festivals has been prepared by the Jewish Greens Group to help national, regional, and local Green Parties and Liberation Groups understand when Jewish members might choose not to attend Green Party events.

The table below shows Jewish festival dates in the coming year, and it is followed by some explanatory background notes on Jewish observance and the Hebrew calendar.

jewish festival dates 2021

Please see the notes below for the significance of the different Jewish Festivals

25 Feb 2021 — Evening — Start of Purim (Lots – Book of Esther) — minor festival
26 Feb 2021 — Day — Purim
27 Mar 2021 — Evening — Start of Pesach (Passover) — major festival
28 Mar 2021 — Day — Pesach 1st day
28 Mar 2021 — Day — Pesach 2nd day
28 Mar 2021 — Evening — Start of Pesach 7th Day
28 Mar 2021 — Day — Pesach 7th day
28 Mar 2021 — Day — Pesach 8th day
29 April 2021 — Evening — Start of L’ag BaOmer (33rd day of Omer) — minor festival
30 April 2021 — Day — L’ag BaOmer
16 May 2021 — Evening — Start of Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) — major festival
17 May 2021 — Day — Shavuot 1st day
18 May 2021 — Day — Shavuot 2nd day
06 Sept 2021 — Evening — Start of Rosh Hashana (New Year) — High holyday
07 Sept 2021 — Day — Rosh Hashana 1st Day
08 Sept 2021 — Day — Rosh Hashana 2nd Day
15 Sept 2021 — Evening — Start of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) — High holyday
16 Sept 2021 — Day — Yom Kippur
20 Sept 2021 — Evening — Start of Succot (Tabernacles) — major festival
21 Sept 2021 — Day — Succot 1st day
22 Sept 2021 — Day — Succot 2nd day
27 Sept 2021 — Evening — Start of Shemini Atzeret (Eighth Day) — major festival
28 Sept 2021 — Day — Shemini Atzeret
28 Sept 2021 — Evening — Start of Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of the Law) — major festival
29 Sept 2021 — Day — Simchat Torah
28 Nov 2021 — Evening — 1st night of Chanukah (Dedication of the Temple) — minor festival
05 Dec 2021 — Evening — 8th (last) night of Chanukah


Significance of Jewish festivals

Shabbat (the Sabbath)
The Jewish Shabbat (Sabbath) begins every Friday evening at sunset and lasts until after sunset on Saturday evening. Orthodox Jews avoid all work and travel on Shabbat and attend synagogue services on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. Many traditional Jews who do not avoid work and travel or attend synagogue still mark the start of Shabbat by lighting candles and reciting blessings at home on Friday evenings at the start of a family meal.

High holydays
Rosh Hashana (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement - a 25-hour fast) are the most important festivals in the Jewish year. Almost everyone who identifies as Jewish will mark these festivals, which are a time of solemnity and reflection, marked by repentance, prayer, and charity (and not a time for new year parties). Most synagogues are crowded and many hold additional overflow services to make room for those who never attend at any other time of the year.

Major festivals
The three major festivals of Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) and Succot (Tabernacles) are mandated in the Torah (Five Books of Moses), and Orthodox Jews avoid all work and travel on these festivals and attend synagogue services. These festivals have both traditional historical and agricultural significance (they each mark the harvest of different crops). Many traditional Jews will mark these festivals in some way, even if they do not attend synagogue.
Pesach marks the end of slavery and the Exodus from Egypt, and certain foods are avoided while other special foods are eaten. In particular, the first two evenings of Pesach are marked with a special ceremony and meal at home, called the Seder, which is often a large family gathering. It traditionally marked the start of the harvest season in the land of Israel.

Shavuot traditionally marks the harvest of first fruits and occurs seven weeks after Pesach (hence the name, Feast of Weeks). The traditional historical meaning of the festival is the revelation at Mount Sinai, when Moses was given the whole of the Torah.

The traditional historical meaning of Succot is to mark the 40 years during which the children of Israel lived in temporary shelters in the desert. Many traditional and orthodox Jews build a temporary structure (a succah), which can be brightly decorated, where they have their meals during the festival. Agriculturally, Succot is a harvest festival. The two days following Succot, Shemini Atzeret (Eighth Day) and Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of the Law), are strictly speaking separate festivals but are commonly thought of as part of Succot.

Minor festivals (marked in italic in the calendar)

There are many minor festivals and fast days throughout the Jewish year. Orthodox Jews will mark them with additional prayers and synagogue services, but they are not obliged to avoid work and travel on these days. The minor festivals listed in the calendar are the ones most likely to be marked in some way by traditional Jews.

Purim marks the story told in the Book of Esther, which is read on the festival, and is marked by parties, fancy dress parades in some communities, and gifts to the needy.
Chanukah marks the success of the revolt by the Maccabees against foreign domination, and the rededication of the temple. Eight nights of candle lighting mark the miracle of the small jar of oil for the temple lamp, enough for just one day, that lasted for eight days. The festival is marked by eating food fried in oil (such as potato pancakes and doughnuts)/ It is often incorrectly compared to Christmas because of a modern practice of giving small gifts to children during the festival.

Jewish observance
The number of Jewish people in the UK is estimated to be around 360,000, which is less than 0.5% of the general population and it is concentrated in major cities, particularly in London and Manchester. Despite its relatively small size, there is a wide variety of religious observance and practice in the UK’s Jewish community, from strict ultra-orthodox communities to people who regard their Jewish identity as a cultural rather than a religious one.

The Hebrew calendar
The Jewish year is based on the cycles of the moon, but as 12 lunar cycles are considerably shorter than a normal solar year, some years include an additional 13th “leap month”, following a mathematical formula codified by scholars in the 4th century CE. This ensures that seasonal festivals are always at the right time of year, but it also means that the dates of festivals in the civil calendar are different each year.

The Jewish day
In Jewish tradition the day runs from sunset to sunset, not from midnight to midnight. The Jewish Shabbat (the Sabbath), for example, begins at sunset on Friday and ends just after sunset on Saturday.

Observance at home
Many observances take place in the home, with the family, rather than in the synagogue. Friday night dinner, with candle lighting and blessings over challah bread and sacramental wine is widely observed even in many families that don’t generally attend synagogue. The celebration of the Pesach (Passover) meal (the Seder) at home on each of the first two nights of the festival is also a very important tradition for many Jewish families.

For further information
If you or your party or liberation group would like more information about Jewish Festivals, or about Jewish practice in general, please contact David Farbey (david@farbey.co.uk).

References
Details of Jewish festival dates: https://www.hebcal.com/
General introduction to Jewish practice: http://www.jewfaq.org/