Jewish Holidays

The Jewish calendar follows not only the solar year, but lunar months, too. The Jewish new year starts at the beginning of autumn. The biggest feast, repeated from week to week is Saturday. It is particularly significant, because a religous Jew is not allowed to do certain activities between Friday evening and Saturday evening: do work, light a fire, touch electronic objects (no TV-watching), make phone calls and travel. In Hungary the Jewish communities are called hitközség (religious community), the members name each other hittestvér (brother/sister in belief). The traditional greeting is Salom during weekdays, Sabbat Salom is merely used Friday evening and on Saturday.


The holiday of the Passover is the most important seven days in the year for the Jewry. The details of the holiday are strictly determined, as it is generally typical of the Jewish religion, and even the tiniest moves, the smallest gestures have a symbolical meaning. Two main motives characterize Passover: rememberance the bitterness, and celebrating happyness and the joy of liberty. Approaching to the holiday all chametz has to be removed from Jewish homes. Chametz covers all leavened products or those ones that has been in touch with leavened foods. Removing chametz from homes has a symbolical meaning: Jewish people believe in the commandment of God and obey them without any hesitation. The Seder Evening is an important part of the holiday. Seder is the Hebrew word (meaning order) for a special dinner, that is held on the eve of Passover, and repeated on the following evening. Every single gesture, element and food of the dinner tell and play the story of Exodus by means of symbols. On the Seder Plate specific dishes can be found in a determined order: three matzo lying on each other, symbolizing the three castes of Jewry, next to it a chicken-neck, commemorating the lamb sacrified before the 10th plague. These are followed by a boiled egg, in memory of the sacrifice brought in the Temple, a bitter herb representing the bitterness of the Egyptian slavery. The Charoses is a mixture of grated apples, nuts and wine commemorating the morter, prepared by Jews during their slavery. The last component of the Seder Plate is some kind of vegetables, referring to the holiday in spring, as well as to bitterness.

Everybody has to place a glass of salted water next to the plate, where some foods are dunked in during the ceremony, referring to the tears, that were shed by the ancestors during the slavery in Egypt. Participants should make themselves comfortable at the ceremony, and they drink altogether four glass of wine: as it is the feast of joy and gladness in the same time. Meanwhile, children tend to ask questions, answering and explaining them everything in detail is a significant part of the evening.


The Hannukah is one of the longest Jewish holidays, it lasts for eight nigths and days; it is also well-known as the Festival of Lights. The date of it is different every year, and this holiday is a reminder of a miracle. It is unique among the Hebrew feasts because it records a military event in people’s memory. Judas Maccabeus first defeated the army of Antiochus, then cleaned up the Temple in Jerusalem and achieved for the Jews to live freely while retaining their habits. From the first day of Hanukkah Jewish families light one more candles every night, and they put them a place where they can proclaim the godlike miracle. Meanwhile, the children play with dreidel (a four-sided spinning top) and sing Hannukah songs. What is more, for this celebration Jewish children often get gifts, and sometimes they receive something every day during the Hanukkah.

Play with Dreidel

The dreidel (in Hebrew: szevivón, dradel, Kreisel) is a special four-sided gyroscope, on which letters can be read (one letter by sides), and these letters determine for the players what to do. The four letters form a sentence: נס גדול היה שם (Nes gadol haya sham) – a great miracle occured there), in Israel: נס גדול היה פה (Nes gadol haya shin) – a great miracle occured here.

Yom Kippur

The Day of Atonement (Sábát Sábáton). The name refers to a story that can be read in the Torah, in which God forgave a sin of the Israelites, namely their worship towards a golden calf, which was committed when Moses received those tablets from God that forbade any idolatries. According to the tradition, they stamp the judgement that was delivered by God at Rosh Hasana, at the beginning of the Jewish New Year. That is why the time between the two holidays is considered to be the day of repentance. At that dawn prayers apology for changing the promiscuous negative verdict for a positive direction. This is the only day on which the halakhah requires to fast. Apart from eating and drinking, it is forbidden having a wash, using parfumes, wearing comfortable leather shoes, and what is more, living married life. Rules are much more strict than for an average Saturday. One afternoon before there is a holiday feast for the families where the head of the family blesses his children.


Feast of Booths, Feast of Tabernacles. It lasts for seven days with hilarious, religious ceremonies, and with a lot of singing and dancing. During this feast, many Jewish people move into a sukkah (booth) so as to remember the time when their ancestors were wandering in the desert; it lasted for forty years. A very important requirement is a lulav, their festive boquet, made of four different plants (Four species); aravah (willow), hadass (myrtle), lulav (palm frond) and etrog (citron). The last mentioned one, etrog is not in the bunch but it should be kept separately in the left hand. The Jewish express their faith and gladness towards God with this bunch. The seventh day of Sukkot is known as Hoshana Rabbah, meaning the ’Great Supplication’ – this day can be handled as a separate holiday, instead of its being part of Sukkot. On this day the verdict can be inluenced somehow that was stamped at Yom Kippur.


A Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire from destruction in the wake of a plot by Haman, a story recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther. According to the Book, Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus planned to kill the Jews, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and Queen Esther. As a revenge – according to the Book – 80.000 Persians were massacred by the Jews. Some religious obligations (mikveh) can be linked to the Purim. The first is that the scrolls of Esther should be read aloud (for the community) in the synagogue every morning and evening before the feast. This is the only occassion all the year when their task is to be loud during the speech, it is an obligation to make noise when they hear the name Haman. Another provision is the so-called misloach manot, namely sending portions of food and presents to one another; gifts and donations to the poor, so as not to be in necessity this gladsome day. What is more, they ’kill the fatted calf’ where they have to drink so much, following the rabbis’ instruction that they cannot distuingish the damned Haman and the blessed Mordechai. As usual, they wear different costumes during this feast – symbolizing ups and downs – and they play Purim games and eat a variety of desserts like ’Haman’s ears’, flodni.

Rosh Hasanah

The ’Head of the Year’, the ’Day of Alarm’ or ’Horns’ Blare’ – says the Torah, because a very typical attachement of this feast is the shofar, an ancient Jewish instrument. This instrument is a simple sheep-horn and it works simply by blowing. According to the Talmud, this horn reminds the Jews to another one that Abraham sacrificed instead of his son. The whole month before Rosh Hashanah passes in terms of conversion. The shofar is traditionally blown each morning for the entire month of Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah. The sound of the shofar is intended to awaken the listeners from their “slumbers” and alert them to the coming judgment and to recall the desire to some conversion in the hearts and call attention to the upcoming ’Awesome Days.’ The evening before means for Jews to wear ’kitli’ , a special, white lent dress; by the way, the white colour dominates in the synagogues as well, including curtains covering the art of the covenant, or the tablecloth of the Torah’s table. Superstitious-minded families spend the whole Rosh Hashanah with doing things that are wished to be done all year. In some places, people do not asleep, so as to avoid oversleeping the year. It is a usage to wish a sweet new year. At that time, people often dip apple in honey and eat honey cakes as well.