A Jew in prayer-shawl blows the ram's horn (shofar) at the start of the Day of Atonement

A Jew in prayer-shawl blows the ram's horn (shofar) at the start of the Day of Atonement


Significant Festivals

Shabbat (Sabbath) - Weekly from sunset Friday into Saturday

Every week, Jews keep the Sabbath. At sunset on Friday, many will attend prayers in a synagogue. Even families who do not, may keep the traditional Friday evening family meal, with the Kiddush blessing recited over a cup of wine. The period to sunset on Saturday is observed as a day of rest – observant Jews will not even “kindle a fire” (which includes turning an electric switch on) during Sabbath.

Pesach (Passover) - Pesach lasts for 7 or 8 days, it begins on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan.

Pesach recalls the escape from Egypt and marks the first cereal crops of the year, around March. A symbolic meal is eaten by each family and the story of the exodus from Egypt is retold.

Shavuot (Pentecost) - Jews count each of the days from the second day of Passover to the day before Shavu'ot, being 49 days or 7 full weeks after Pesach

Shavuot, around the start of June, recalls Moses receiving the Torah, at the time of later cereal harvests and first fruits.

Succot (Booths) - The Festival of Sukkot begins on Tishri 15, the fifth day after Yom Kippur

Succot, in autumn, is the final harvest festival – translating as the “Feast of Booths”, many Jews live in temporary dwellings or decorate their conservatories with foliage, to remember how their ancestors lived in tents when fleeing Egypt. It is an eight-day festival beginning with two days of rest. The final two days, also rest days, are Shemini Atzeret (the conclusion of harvest) and Simchat Torah (celebrating the gift of the Law in Jewish Scripture).

Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) - Changes each year following a lunar calendar

The Jewish New Year takes place around September/October, and is considered one of the most important and serious holidays in the Jewish calendar. As well as being a time for celebration it is also a time for reflection and repentance for sins committed in the previous year. It is also a time for celebration traditions include eating apples dipped in honey in the hope that this will lead to a sweet year.

Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) - A week after Rosh Hashanah

This High Holy Day is the most solemn and serious day in the Jewish calendar, which involves praying for forgiveness for sins and afflicting oneself as punishment for those committed in the past year. Jews fast (refraining from any food or drink) for 25 hours from sundown on the previous evening until sundown the next night, and are not allowed to work, bathe or wear leather shoes. Children below Barmitzvah or Batmitzvah age, pregnant women and diabetics are discouraged from fasting, as is anybody whose health is likely to be seriously affected by the 25-hour abstinence.

Holocaust Memorial Day - January 27th

In the UK, 27th January (the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps in Nazi Germany) is kept as a day to remember the Shoah, the Nazi persecution of the Jewish people. Other instances of genocide may also be commemorated on this "Holocaust Memorial Day" but its origins are in preserving the memory of the plight of the Jewish people during the Second World War.

Purim - Usually February

Purim commemorates the account in the Biblical book of Esther, where Queen Esther prevails against the attempts of courtier Haman to have the Jewish people exterminated throughout the Persian empire. The feast is celebrated with a joyful re-telling of the story.


The Chaplaincy to the University of Glamorgan provides the following information from its own researchers. Each page has been checked by the chaplaincy advisor from the relevant faith group. Within every major religion, there are differences of opinion between leaders, and between leaders and followers. We only aim to provide an overview.