Festivals: Practices in Britain and Elsewhere

Festivals: Practices in Britain and Elsewhere

Jewish Festivals and Practices: A Comparative Look at Britain and Other Regions

Passover (Pesach)

  • Celebrated in early spring and lasts for eight days.
  • Reminiscent of Jews’ exodus from Egypt and attainment of freedom from slavery.
  • Seder meal typically marks the beginning of Passover, involving the telling of the exodus story.
  • Specific foods are eaten and avoided, mainly the avoidance of leavened bread.

Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year)

  • Marks the beginning of the Jewish calendar.
  • Characterised by special prayers and blowing of the shofar in synagogue.
  • Special foods like apples dipped in honey convey wishes for a sweet new year.

Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)

  • Considered most solemn Jewish holiday, observed with 25 hours of fasting and intensive prayer.
  • Repentance and seeking forgiveness for sins committed during the year are key aspects.
  • Generally observed similarly worldwide, with minor cultural variations.


  • Celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend, Jews witnessed a miracle.
  • Candle lighting on the menorah, special prayers, and food are common practises.
  • In Britain and elsewhere, it’s often celebrated in public spaces, with large public menorah lightings.


  • Celebrates the rescue of the Jewish people from a plot to kill them in ancient Persia, as outlined in the Book of Esther.
  • Celebrations involve public readings of the Book of Esther, delivering gifts of food, donating to charity, and a festive meal. There is also a custom of wearing masks and costumes.
  • While Purim is celebrated worldwide, it takes a particular significance and festivity level in Israel.

Note that all Jewish holidays begin at sunset on the evening before the day of the festival. This is because a ‘day’ in the Hebrew calendar begins at sunset.