A guide to 2024 Jewish holidays

The Jewish Calendar 

The Jewish calendar is both solar and lunar, consisting of 12 months of either 29 or 30 days. The Jewish year (5784, 5785, etc.) begins on Rosh Hashanah, and all holidays begin at sundown on the start date listed and end at sundown on the end date listed.

The current year of 5784 began at sunset on September 15, 2023 and will end at sunset on October 2, 2024.

The Jewish calendar, unlike the Gregorian one, follows the moon’s lead, introducing a 19-year cycle with seven leap years adding a full month to maintain synchronization with the solar year. This method ensures that Jewish holidays, though varying from the Gregorian calendar by about a month, consistently occur at the same seasonal junctures. Read more at My Jewish Learning.

  • Tishri (September-October) תשרי
  • Heshvan (October-November) חשון 
  • Kislev (November-December) כסלו 
  • Tevet (December-January) טבת
  • Shevat (January-February) שבת
  • Adar (February-March) אדר
  • Nisan (March-April) ניסן 
  • Iyyar (April-May) אייר
  • Sivan (May-June) סיון
  • Tammuz (June-July) תמוז
  • Av (July-August) אב
  • Elul (August-September) אלול

Shabbat

Fridays before sunset to Saturdays after sunset
Greeting: Shabbat Shalom (“shuh-BAHT shah-LOHM”) or peaceful rest
  • June 14: Light Shabbat candles at 7:40 p.m.
  • Weekly Torah portion: Naso

As the subject of the fourth commandment, Shabbat is the only holiday mentioned in the Ten Commandments: “Remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy.” Shabbat is primarily a day of rest whose origins can be found in the creation story. Read more at My Jewish Learning.

January-May

Evening of January 25–26

The Hebrew term for the date ‘the 15th of Shevat’ which the Mishnalists refer to as being  ראש השנה לאילנות , or  the New Year of the Trees. Because Tu B’Shvat is a festival specifically relating to the Land of Israel, it is customary on the day to eat fruit that is strongly associated with the Land of Israel, such as the seven species mentioned in the book of Deuteronomy:

  • Grapes גפן
  • Barley שעורה
  • Wheat חיטה
  • Pomegranates רימון
  • Figs תאנה
  • Olive oil זית
  • Dates תמר
  • Honey דבש

In addition, many people eat special or unique fruits that in turn can call for the additional blessing of the Shehecheyanu prayer that is traditionally used for “first” moments.

Read more at My Jewish Learning.

Evening of March 23–24
Greeting: Chag Purim sameach (“khahg POOR-ihm sah-MAY-ahkh”) or Happy Purim

Purim is a joyful holiday marking the deliverance of the Jews of Persia from a plot to annihilate them. We celebrate with music, costumes, parties, satirical plays (known in Yiddish as “Purim Shpiels”), food, and drink. From the first day of the Hebrew month of Adar, we are commanded to “Be Happy!” It is customary to celebrate the holiday by dressing in costumes, eating and drinking, and listening to the Megillah (the Book of Esther that tells the story of Purim).

  • People are encouraged to scream, hiss, and make noise with a noisemaking device called a grager at the mention of Haman’s name during the reading of the Megillah.
  • Hamantashen, or Haman’s pockets, are a popular Purim cookie; the fruit filling symbolizes the rumor that the evil Haman’s pockets were filled with bribe money.

Read more at My Jewish Learning.

Evening of April 22–30
Greeting: Chag Pesach sameach (“khahg PEH-sakh sah-MAY-ahkh”) or happy Passover; or chag kasher vesame’ach (“khahg KAH-sher ve-sah-MAY-ahkh”) or happy and kosher holiday

Passover is one of the Shalosha Regalim (the three pilgrimage festivals that also includes Shavuot and Sukkot). The holiday commemorates the Exodus from Egypt, and its name comes from the miracle in which God “passed over” the houses of the Israelites during the 10th plague. Centered on the family or communal celebration of the seder (ritual meal), we are restricted from eating (or even possessing) any chametz — food containing any grain product (wheat, barley, oats, spelt, and rye) that has been allowed to ferment in water. 

The holiday begins with a ritual meal called a seder, which means “order.” The haggadah is a book that tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt and describes the order of the seder meal. The haggadah demands that people see themselves as having personally come forth out of Egypt. The symbolic foods laid out on the table include:

  • Karpas, a green vegetable (most often parsley) | כרפס
  • Haroset, sweet fruit paste symbolizing mortar | חרוסת
  • Maror, bitter herbs that symbolize the bitterness of slavery in Egypt | מרור
  • Hazeret, a second bitter herb (often romaine lettuce) | חזרת
  • Zeroa (shank bone), symbolizing the Pesach sacrifice in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem | זרוע
  • Matzah, the unleavened “bread of affliction” | מצה
  • Beitzah, egg symbolizing the sacrifices offered on every holiday at the Temple | ביצה

Read more at My Jewish Learning.

Evening of May 25–26

Lag Ba’omer is a minor holiday that happens on the 33rd day of Sefirat HaOmer (April 23-June 11) — the 49-day period of semi-mourning between Passover and Shavuot.

Lag Ba’Omer is a break from the mourning of the Omer. Modern Jewish tradition connects the holiday to the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire (132-135 CE). Agriculturally, the Omer period corresponds to the beginning of the barley harvest and the end of the wheat harvest. It also tracks the Jewish peoples’ Exodus from Egypt to the giving of the Torah.

It is customary to light bonfires, have first haircuts, shoot bows and arrows, and hold Jewish weddings and other festive events.

Sefirat HaOmer is April 23–June 11, 2024

Read more at My Jewish Learning.

Yanim (May)

Yanim are the three days that the Jewish community comes together to honor the journey and resilience of the Jewish people.

Evening of May 5–6

Yom HaShoah, commemorating the Holocaust and heroism, occurs annually on the 27th day of Nissan in the Jewish calendar. The date was chosen in 1951 by Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, to commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against the Nazis in 1943. While the separate International Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by the Soviet Army in 1945, Yom HaShoah emphasizes Jewish resilience and self-determination.

In Israel, nationwide sirens halt activity for two minutes at sundown and at 11 a.m. Media broadcasts focus on remembering the lost and celebrating survivors’ heroism. Worldwide, Yom HaShoah ceremonies mourn the tragedy while honoring survivors, and pledge to prevent such horrors in the future. Read more at My Jewish Learning.

Evening of May 12–13

Israel’s Memorial Day, established officially in 1963 (though observed since 1948), honors soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the Jewish homeland. Occurring on the fourth day of Iyar on the Jewish calendar and preceding independence day, the juxtaposition emphasizes the sacrifices that are integral to Israel’s history. The day also extends remembrance to security personnel and civilians lost to terrorism.

The entire nation pauses with sirens followed by prayers in military cemeteries. Entertainment venues, stores, and restaurants close for the day while people attend public ceremonies and visit cemeteries. Read more at My Jewish Learning.


Watch this video of Israeli highway traffic coming to a halt in observance of Yom Hashoah. “Since the early 1960s, the sound of a siren on Yom Hashoah stops traffic and pedestrians throughout the State of Israel for two minutes of silent devotion,” writes My Jewish Learning. “The siren blows at sundown as the holiday begins and once again at 11 a.m. the following morning.”

Evening of May 13–14
Greeting: Chag atzmaut sameach (“hahg atz-mah-OOT sah-MAY-ahkh”) or happy Independence Day

A ceremonial flag raising over the national cemetery at Har Herzl signifies the transition from the solemnity of Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron to the joy of independence day, which commemorates Israel’s birth in 1948. Festivities include evening concerts, street celebrations, and communal singing.

Other activities include hikes and picnics, and the annual Israel Prize recognizes outstanding contributions to culture, science, arts, and the humanities. Some synagogues also hold special services. Read more at My Jewish Learning.

Read about how we observed these days in 2024.

June-August

Evening of June 11–13
Greeting: Chag Sameach (“hahg sah-MAY-ahkh”) or Happy Holiday

Shavuot (the Festival of Weeks) combines two major religious observances:

  • Agricultural: early summer wheat harvest; one of the three biblical pilgrimage festivals (along with Passover and Sukkot), when Israelite males were commanded to appear before God in Jerusalem, bringing offerings of the first fruits of their harvest.
  • Historical: the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai seven weeks after the exodus from Egypt. It falls on the 50th day after Passover, concluding the counting of the Omer.

Read more at My Jewish Learning.

Evening of August 12-13
Greeting: Tzohm moil (“tzohm moh-EEL”) or may you have a meaningful fast

Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the month of Av, is the major day of communal mourning in the Jewish calendar. The day is observed with prayers and fasting. Shaving and the wearing of cosmetics and leather are banned, and people are also expected to refrain from smiles, laughter, and idle conversation. All ornaments are removed from synagogues and lights are dimmed. The ark (where the Torah is kept) is draped in black.

Read more at My Jewish Learning.

Evening of August 18-19
Greeting: Chag ahave sameach (“hahg a-hahv-ay sah-MAY-ahkh”) or happy love holiday

The Jewish Day of Love, the 15th day of the month of Av is both an ancient and a modern holiday. In ancient times it originally was a post-biblical day of joy and served as a matchmaking day for unmarried women. The holiday has been revived in recent years.

Read more at My Jewish Learning.

High Holidays (October)

Evening of October 2–4
Greeting: L’Shana Tova U’Metoka (“le-shahna tow-VAH oo-meh-TOH-kah”) or to a good and sweet new year

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, signifies the day on which God completed the creation of the world. Rosh Hashanah denotes the start of the Days of Awe, which are the 10 days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. These days are used for introspection and reflection on the mistakes of the past year and the changes to make for the coming year. Traditions include:

  • Dipping apples in honey in anticipation of a sweet new year.
  • A total of 100 notes are sounded on each day from the shofar, or ram’s horn. The sound serves as a “wake-up call” to begin the process of intense introspection.

Read more at My Jewish Learning.

Evening of October 11–12
Greeting: Tzohm kal (“tzohm KAHL”) or may you have an easy fast; also g’mar chatima tova (“ge-MAR chah-tee-MAH tow-VAH”), or may you be inscribed for a good life

Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is when we ask God for forgiveness for the past year’s sins and to write our names in the Book of Life. The day includes a 25-hour fast from all food and drink (including water) beginning before sunset on the evening before and ending after nightfall on the day of. Yom Kippur ends with one final blast of the shofar (see Rosh Hashanah, above) and a prayer that “next year may we be in Jerusalem!”

Read more at My Jewish Learning.

October-December

Evening of October 16–23
Greeting: Chag sameach (“khahg sah-MAY-ahkh”) or happy holiday

Sukkot, the Festival of Booths, is a seven-day festival beginning five days after Yom Kippur on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. Sukkot is one of the Shalosh Regalim, or three pilgrimage festivals that include Passover and Shavuot. Sukkot both celebrates the harvest and commemorates the type of dwelling the Israelites lived in during their 40 years of wandering through the desert.

Building a Sukkah

The walls should be made from natural materials that will withstand an ordinary wind and the roof should be made of a material that grew from the earth, was cut off from the earth, and is not susceptible to contamination (e.g., tree branches, corn stalks, bamboo reeds, and sticks). You must be able to see the night sky through the roof and there should be at least 2.5 walls.

Myrtle, willow branches, ulav (a palm frond), and etrog (yellow citron) are symbols of this holiday.

Read more at My Jewish Learning.

Following Sukkot
Greeting: Chag sameach (“khahg sah-MAY-ahkh”) or happy holiday

Shemini Atzeret literally means “the assembly of the eighth (day),” and is seen as an extension of the holiday of Sukkot as well as a holiday in its own right. It is on Shemini Atzeret that we begin to pray for rain.

Simchat Torah means “Rejoicing in the Torah,” and celebrates the completion of the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings. On Simchat Torah, both the final Torah portion and the first Torah portion are read immediately following one another to symbolize that the reading of the Torah is a continual cycle and we are never truly done. Traditionally, this holiday is celebrated with dancing and singing with the Torah in the synagogue.

In Israel, these two days are celebrated on the same day, while in the Diaspora (the Jewish world outside of Israel), each has its own day.

Read more at My Jewish Learning.

Evening of November 29–30
Greeting: Melkam sigd beal (“mel-cam see-gd BEH-al”) or happy sigd

An Ethiopian Jewish holiday on the 29th of Cheshvan, Sigd marks a unique tradition rooted in the Beta Israel community’s isolation until the mid 20th century. The name, meaning “prostration” in Ge’ez, reflects a connection to Aramaic. Sigd signifies accepting the Torah, yearning for Israel and the Temple, and commemorates God’s revelation to Moses. Traditionally, Beta Israel members fast, read from the Octateuch, recite psalms, and pray for the Temple’s rebuilding — renewing the covenant.

The fast concludes with a festive mid-day feast and dancing, resembling Shavuot. Recognized as a state holiday in Israel since 2008, Sigd spans a month, fostering awareness of Beta Israel customs among Israeli Jews.

Read more at My Jewish Learning

Evening of December 25–January 2
Greeting: Chag urim sameach (“khahg OO-reem sah-MAY-ahkh” or happy holiday of light

Hanukkah is an eight-day holiday that celebrates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE. After the Syrian Greeks conquered Jerusalem, defiled the Temple, and tried to prevent the Jews from observing Shabbat and studying Torah, a group of zealous fighters called the Maccabees waged a revolt and defeated the Syrian army. 

The Maccabees cleaned up the Temple, rekindled the menorah that stood in it, and re-established Jewish practice there. According to legend, the Maccabees found only a small jar of oil, containing one day’s worth of oil needed for the menorah’s flame. Miraculously, the flame continued to burn for eight full days.

On Hanukkah we eat foods fried in oil to remind us of the miracle, like latkes (לביבות, or potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (ֶסופגניות, or jelly donuts), and we light candles for eight nights.

Read more at My Jewish Learning.


View the Birmingham Jewish Federation’s Five-Year Calendar of Jewish Holidays and Observances.