Jewish holidays are celebrated according to the Jewish Calendar, which is based on lunar cycles (moon). This is unlike the Gregorian Calendar that is based on the sun. The moon completes its entire cycle in twenty-nine and a half days. There is a difference of eleven days per year between the solar and lunar year. While the solar year has 365 1/4 days, the lunar year has 354 days.
Seven times after every 19 years, an extra month is added to the Jewish calendar. This is done to ensure that every Jewish festival is celebrated in its proper season. If this exercise is not carried out then we may see holidays following on different seasons. For example, Passover, which is a Spring festival, may at times take place in winter. So is the case with other Jewish festivals.
The signal for the new Jewish month is when the moon appears as a thin crescent in the beginning of the moon cycle. The moon gradually grows until it gains its full shape. This is the middle of the month. The moon then starts to decrease and finally cannot be seen. For around two days the moon remains invisible, when again it can be seen as a thin crescent. The cycle starts once again.
The Torah organizes the Jewish festivals according to the days of the month; hence, it is important to know when exactly the month would begin. Rosh Chodesh is the first as well as the thirtieth day of the month. Known as the Head of the Month, it has a semi-festive status. The first month of the Jewish calendar is Nissan. However, the Jewish year is considered from the month of Tishri. This month is in Autumn.
Further the Jewish days are not considered from dawn or midnight, rather from sunset to sunset, when three stars can be seen in the sky. The basis of this is biblical. Jews describe the evenings as late afternoons, which is from 3 pm to sundown. Thus the Jewish holidays begin on the night before the days and hence span two days on the Gregorian calendar.
Passover is a very important Jewish festival. A Spring festival, Passover is celebrated in the Jewish month of Nissan (March-April). It is observed as a commemoration of the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in ancient Egypt. The Jews gained their freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses. Passover is observed for seven days in Israel and for eight by Jews in other parts of the world.
The other prominent Jewish festivals that are observed during the year are Tu BiShvat, which takes place on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, which is in the month of February.
Purim, which is observed in the month of March, commemorates saving Jews from Haman. It took place in ancient Persia.
Celebrated in the month of September-October, Yom Kippur is the day of atonement. It is the holiest day of the year for Jews. The day is marked with fasting and a period of 25 hour fasting.
Celebrated in the month of October, Sukkot commemorates the sheltering of Jews in the wilderness.
Observed in December, Hanukkah celebrates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple.
Saturday, Feb. 11
March 12 Sunday
Passover 2017 begins in the evening of
, April 10
Ends in the evening of Tuesday , April 18
Yom Kippur 2017 begins in the evening of
, September 29
Ends in the evening of Saturday , September 30
Sukkot 2017 begins in the evening of
, October 4
Ends in the evening of Wednesday , October 11
Hanukkah 2017 begins in the evening of
, December 12
Ends in the evening of Wednesday , December 20