Holy Days, Festivals and Rituals


  • Brit Millah. This is the covenant of circumcision. It is the ritual removal of the foreskin which is performed in accordance with the Torah scripture Genesis 17:10. It takes place on the 8th day of a baby boy’s life.
  • Brit Hayyim/Brit Bat. This is a naming ceremony for baby girls, it also takes place on the 8th day of life.
  • Bar Mitzvah. A ceremony for boys at the age of 13. It makes a Jewish boy’s entry into the community as an adult. The words literally mean “son of the Commandment.”
  • Bat Mitzvah. A ceremony for girls, the literal translation is “daughter of the Commandment”, it can be held for females as young as 12. It is a ceremony that was first celebrated in the 20th Century and would not be followed by all branches of Judaism.
  • Kiddushin. The Jewish marriage ceremony. It takes place under a huppah (canopy) and includes the ritual breaking of a glass underfoot. The breaking of the glass is an act to commemorate the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 C.E.
  • Funeral. Funeral practices vary within the tradition.

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Holy Days and Celebrations

  • Rosh Hashanah. The Jewish New Year. Occurs around the middle of September/October. It celebrates the religious New Year and the creation of the earth.
  • Yom Kippur. Occurs shortly after Rosh Hashanah. It is the Day of Atonement. It runs from sunset to sunset and believers do not eat or drink during this time. It is a time to repent for actions of the past year.
  • Sukkot. The feast of Booths. It lasts for nine days and occurs around the end of September/October. It is known as the Harvest celebration.
  • Channukah (Hanukkah). Occurs late November to mid December. Known as the Festival of Lights it celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians in the second century B.C.E.
  • Purim. Occurs late February to early March. It remembers the deliverance of the Persian Jews from destruction. The day before Purim is spent fasting, the actual day of Purim is joyous.
  • Pesach (Passover). Occurs from late March to early April. It honours the delivery of the Jewish people from slavery. It lasts between 7 and 8 days (depending upon the branch of Judaism).
  • Shavout. Occurs in May/June and lasts for 2 days. It is the spring harvest festival and the celebration of God’s gift of the Torah.