“Jewish holidays 2019” comes in near the top of the charts for most-search Jewish things in Google. The subject of Jewish holidays and related key phrases are always among the most frequently searched subjects. I suspect this is because Jewish holidays appear to fall on different days every year, according to the calendar most of the world follows. For this reason people are always searching to find out when a given holiday is!
(In fact, the holidays are on the same day every year according to the ancient Hebrew calendar, but the Hebrew calendar is very different.)
There’s even a funny website to address this confusion: isitajewishholidaytoday.com.
Well, search no more! (At least this year.) I’ve prepared a line-up of all the major holidays (and a few minor ones) for the common calendar year 2019. Of course, some purists may scoff at my using the common era year instead of the proper Hebrew years of 5779 and 5780. Those purists also probably Google “Jewish holidays 2019” to find out when holidays fall in a given common-era year.
(I also made a video to go along with this guide. It’s an early attempt at YouTube Live…the sound is good, but the picture is a bit, well, buffered.)
So here they are, the Jewish holidays of 2019, in order of appearance. Below you see their dates on the common calendar (or Gregorian calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory XII in 1582) and a brief description of each.
PLEASE NOTE: All of these appear to last at least two days, but this may not be the case. While this is true for many Jewish holidays, every Jewish day begins at sundown on one day and ends at sundown on the next day. Therefor, the holidays below begin at sundown of the first day mentioned and end at sundown on the last day mentioned.
Jewish Holidays 2019
Tu BiShvat – January 20-21
“Fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Shevat” – Tu BiShvat (aka Tu B’Shevat or Tu B’Shvat) is a minor Jewish holiday, occurring on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat. It is also called “The New Year of the Trees” or “Birthday of the Trees.” This is one of four “New Years” mentioned in the Mishnah, Masekhet Rosh Hashanah 1:1. Why do trees need a birthday? There are Biblical rules governing when we can eat the fruit of a fruit-bearing tree, and also how we tithe from its produce, based on the age of the tree (see Leviticus 19:23-24 & Deuteronomy 14:22-29), so we needed to declare a kind of common birthday or “fiscal year” for trees, and we follow the guidance of Rabbi Hillel and use the 15th of Shevat. Today celebrations include consideration of the environment, like a “Jewish Earth Day.”
Purim – March 20-21
“Chances” – Commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, a royal advisor in the ancient Persian Empire, who had planning to kill all the Jews in the kingdom. The story is recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther. On this holiday, we read the whole book of Esther aloud, and every time Haman’s name is mentioned, those listening try to drown out his name with noisemakers. It is common for people to wear costumes on this holiday, and also celebrate by consuming alcohol or other intoxicants.
Pesah (Passover) – April 19-27
“Pass Over” or “Skip” – Commemorates the liberation of the Jewish people by God from slavery in Egypt and their freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses. During the first night or two of Passover people hold a great feast at home called a seder, during which we retell the story of the Exodus as described in the Bible in the Book of Exodus. According to standard biblical chronology, this event would have taken place around 1300 BCE. Passover is observed my more Jews (and some non-Jews!) than any other Jewish holiday.
Yom HaShoah – May 1-2
“Day of the Catastrophe” or “Holocaust Remembrance Day” – Observed as Israel’s day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews and five million others who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its allies. It also honors the Jewish resistance during that period. We observe it on the 27th of Nisan (April/May), unless the 27th would be adjacent to Shabbat, in which case the date is shifted one day.
Yom HaZikaron – May 7-8
“Day of the Remembrance” – Israeli Memorial Day, honoring those who have fallen in wars involving the State of Israel. Normally observed on the 4th of Iyyar, we observe it a little earlier or later if observance of the holiday (or Yom HaAtzma’ut, which always follows it by one day) would conflict with Shabbat.
Yom HaAtzma’ut – May 8-9
“Day of the Independence” – Israeli Independence Day. Commemorates the declaration of independence of Israel in 1948. Although we normally observe Yom HaAtzma’ut on the 5th of Iyyar,we may move it a little earlier or later if observance of the holiday (or Yom HaZikaron, which always precedes it by one day) would conflict with Shabbat.
Lag B’Omer – May 22-23
“Thirty-third day of the counting of Omer” – 18th day of the Hebrew month of Iyyar. One reason given for the holiday is as the day of passing of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Modern Jewish tradition links the holiday to the Bar Kokhba Revolt against the Roman Empire (132-135 CE). In Israel, it is celebrated as a symbol for the fighting Jewish spirit – marked by bonfires and barbecues – as well as a break for joy and celebration during the traditionally mournful period of Omer.
Yom Yerushalayim – June 1-2
“Jerusalem Day” – Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City in June 1967. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared Jerusalem Day a minor religious holiday to thank God for victory in the Six-Day War and for answering the 2,000-year-old prayer of “Next Year in Jerusalem” which we say at the end of major holidays like Passover and Yom Kippur.
Shavuot – June 8-10
“Weeks” – Shavuot has a double significance: It is a spring harvest festival, marking the all-important wheat harvest in the Land of Israel, and it also commemorates the day God gave the Torah to the entire Jewish people assembled at Mount Sinai. There is a custom called Tikkun Leil Shavuot where in some communities, people gather on the first night of Shavuot to learn Torah late into the night, if not all night long. There is also a custom of mostly eating dairy foods like blintzes, cheesecake, and ice cream throughout the holiday.
Tisha B’Av – August 10-11
“Ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av” – Commemorates the anniversary of a number of disasters in Jewish history, primarily the destruction of both the 1st Temple and 2nd Temple in Jerusalem. Tisha B’Av is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar and it is thus believed to be a day which is destined for tragedy. It is our custom to fast throughout Tisha B’av, neither eating food or drinking water from sundown the first night until sundown the next night. Marking many historical tragedies on one day also spares us from having multiple days of suffering throughout the year.
Tu B’Av – August 15-16
“Fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Av” – Minor Jewish holiday, observed in modern-day Israel as a day in celebration of love, similar to Valentine’s Day. It is considered as a particularly auspicious day for weddings.
Rosh Hashanah – September 29-October 1
“Head of the Year” – The Jewish New Year. It is the first of the High Holy Days (Yom Kippur is the second). Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of the creation of the first man and woman. It is also the anniversary of their first actions toward the realization of humanity’s active role in God’s world. Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar (a hollowed-out ram’s horn), following the prescription of the Hebrew Bible to “raise a noise” on Yom Teruah; and eating symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey to evoke hope for sweet new year.
(Check out this video series I made for Rosh Hashanah 2018. The info still applies!)
Yom Kippur – October 8-9
“Day of Atonement” – the holiest day of the year for Jews. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jewish people observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. Those observing Yom Kippur abstain from food, water, and other worldly needs (such as bathing and having sex) from sundown the first night to sundown the following night. We usually follow up the fast with communal gatherings and celebratory meals to break the fast.
Sukkot – October 13-20
“Booths” or “Huts” – One of three ancient festivals that commemorate both our ancient history and our ongoing gratitudes for God’s gifts. A harvest festival, it celebrates the bounty of the year with feasting and hospitality. It also recalls the time that our people were wandering in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land. You may see people building temporary structures called sukkot that look like little booths or huts recalling our temporary shelter on our journey. Throughout the festival we eat and sleep in these sukkot.
Shmini Atzeret – October 20-21
“Eighth Day of Assembly” – The eighth day that follows the seven-day festival of Sukkot. The Torah describes it as a “day of solemn assembly.” We think of it both as an extra day of Sukkot and as a holiday in its own right. It ancient times its observance included a special prayer for rain in the coming year; now that the harvest was in, we must begun planning and praying for the new agricultural cycle.
Simhat Torah – October 21-22
“Rejoicing in the Torah” – A day in celebration of Jewish learning. Every year we read the entire Torah in weekly sections. Simhat Torah marks the end of one year’s cycle and the beginning of the next. At the conclusion of our Fall holiday season, we celebrate the Torah itself; the Torah is our guide for a life of kindness, justice, goodness, and greater meaning. We take the Torah scrolls out and dance with them in public. Then we read the last passage of the scroll, roll it back to the beginning, and read the first passage. Thus we begin the year of learning anew!
Yom HaAliyah – November 4-5
“Day of the Ascent” or “Day of Immigration to Israel” – An Israeli national holiday celebrated annually on the seventh of the Hebrew month of Heshvan. The State of Israel established Yom HaAliyah to acknowledge Aliyah, immigration to the Jewish state. Being a safe haven for Jewish immigrants is a core value of the State of Israel. The holiday also honors the ongoing contributions of immigrants to Israeli society.
Sigd – November 26-27
“Prostration” or “Worship” in the Amharic language of Ethiopia – A holiday celebrated by the Ethiopian Jewish community on the 29th of the Hebrew month of Heshvan. It falls exactly 50 days after Yom Kippur. According to Ethiopian Jewish tradition, this is the date that God first revealed Godself to Moses through the Burning Bush.
Hanukkah – December 22-30
“Dedication” – Eight-night festival of lights. It commemorates the rededication of the 2nd Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd Century BCE. This was a great victory for religious freedom for Jews. It also celebrates a miracle that occurred when lamp oil that we lit to rededicate the Temple lasted eight nights; it should have only lasted one night. We light the lights of a candelabrum called a menorah or hanukiah for eight nights. We also exchange gifts, play dreidel, and eat oil-fried foods like donuts or latkes.
There you have it! These are all the major (and some of the minor) Jewish holidays of 2019. Do you have a favorite Jewish holiday? Do you have any questions about these holidays? Please connect with me in the comments below! And if you’d like to upgrade your learning about Jewish holidays and other Jewish subjects, please click on the picture below to download your free guide, “Three Things Jewcurious People Need to Upgrade Your Jewish Learning.”