Jews, the followers of Judaism, are famous for their ethnic and historic culture. Jews observe a number of holidays, most of which are of religious significance.

Rosh Hashanah, Tzom Gedaliah, Rosh Chodesh Iyar, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret, Fast of Esther, Purim, Tu B’Shvat, Counting the Omer, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel Memorial Day and Israel Independence Day are some of the significant Jewish holidays.

Before knowing more about Jewish Holidays, it is important to understand the concept of ‘Shabbat’, or the weekly Rest Day in Jewish culture. The seventh day of the week is referred to as ‘Shabbath’ which literally means rest. Derived from the anecdote that God created the Universe in six days and rested on the seventh, Shabbat signifies complete rest and no work. As days reserved to be spent in tranquility, with family and loved ones, Shabbat forms the basis for many of the Jewish holidays.

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. As the holiest Torah-mandated holiday, this festival is observed by completely abstaining from work. Celebrated closely after ‘Rosh Hashanah’, the Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur symbolizes regrets for misdeeds of the previous year and a resolution to start afresh, in a clean state of mind.

The concept of Rosh Chodesh, or the New Moon, is very significant to Jewish culture. Symbolizing renewal, this day celebrates the Jewish ability to rise above oblivion and restore its glorious past. Tzom Gedaliah (Fast of Gedaliah) is an annual fast day observed immediately after Rosh Hashanah. The fast is observed to commemorate the assassination of Gedaliah Ben Achikam, the Governor of Israel during the days of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylonia.

All Jewish holidays and observances begin on the previous evening, except for some fasts. All holidays are marked by special prayers and services. Jewish holidays mostly follow Sabbath-like restrictions, so all normal business, school or secular activities cease about two hours before the sun sets for the previous evening. Certain activities which are forbidden on the Sabbath and Yom Kippur, like cooking and carrying, are permitted on other holidays.

Deeply rooted in their glorious past and religious values, Jewish holidays celebrate Judaism and symbolize the renewal of this culture.