Jewish Festivals

Jewish festivals frame the Jewish year. The first festival is Rosh Hashanah (The Jewish New Year) and like all Jewish holidays is filled with symbolism and food. Everything is about the new year, new life and being fruitful – coming at the time of year when harvests are plentiful in Israel and most parts of the northern hemisphere, new fruits such as pomegranates, apples, dates and figs are seen in abundance. Honey, and all things sweet, are used in all dishes to signify a sweet new year. The Shofar (Ram’s horn) is blown throughout the month before as a call to spiritual prayer and return to G-d and it continues to be blown until the end of the Fast Day, Yom Kippur, ten days after The New Year. The next festival is Succot, one of the three foot festivals, where in Temple times, pilgrimages were made to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Jews all over the world build Succot (outdoor booths) to commemorate the nomadic wander through the desert after the Children of Israel left Egypt, using four species of plants (a date palm frond, willow leaves, myrtle leaves and the etrog, the citron fruit) as a feast for all the senses. Around the end of the secular year (November/December time) comes Chanukah, the festival of lights, where the Chanukiah candlestick is lit with candles or oils for eight days, to commemorate the miracle of the oil lasting in the desecrated temple during the time of the Greeks and Maccabis. Purim is the festival usually celebrated in March and tells the story of brave Queen Esther in the Persian Court, who saves her people from the threat of extinction. Pesach, the Passover festival and the second of the foot festivals, commemorates the Exodus from Egypt and journey to Israel and freedom. It is the oldest celebrated festival of any religion on earth and brings families together in an eight day celebration. Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah by G-d to Moses and the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai and is the third and final foot festival.

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