The Jewish Holidays Start with Humor

The start of the Jewish holiday season is almost upon us. The year starts with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Note I. Jewish holidays occur on the same day every year – the same day on the Jewish calendar, a lunar calendar! Because the Jewish calendar is tied to the moon’s cycles it has a different number of days than the solar Gregorian calendar used in today’s world. The Jewish calendar loses about 11 days every year but makes up for it by adding a month every two or three years. That’s why the holidays don’t always fall on the same day, but they always fall in the same season. There are several other lunar calendars. The Chinese calendar works the same way, which is why Chinese New Year occurs on different days but is always in late January or early February. The Muslim calendar is lunar but does not add months, which is why Ramadan circles the calendar.

Note II. Jewish holidays start the evening before the actual day. This is because a Jewish “day” starts at sunset. For example, if your calendar says that Passover starts on April 24, the celebration starts on the night of April 23. Some secular calendars mark the preceding day as “Erev Passover,” which basically means Passover Eve. If your calendar says “Erev” or “Eve” before a holiday name, it means the holiday starts the evening of that day and continues into the next day.

Like many other people around the world, Jewish celebrations are accompanied with traditional food, whether calendar holidays or the marking of the life cycle. Each celebration has its own unique food association. Often special foods are filled with meaning and symbolism. While special festive dishes are still prepared, the customs which they accompanies may no be longer known.

What does it all mean?

Humor goes hand-in-hand with celebrations. For example, it’s often said that Jewish holidays are divided between days when you starve (the fast days) and days when you eat (usually over eat), as encouraged by the typical Jewish mother. With all these extremes, no holiday requires light snacking!

This Diet Guide to the Jewish Holidays has been floating around cyberspace for a long time. Feasting alternates with fasting and on and on … It probably was found in hard copy before the advent of the web and word of mouth before that. The following is one source – Each holiday has a particular instruction as seen below – who new there were so many celebrations:

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) — Feast

Tzom Gedalia (the day set aside to commemorate the assassination of Gedaliah) — Fast

Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) — More fasting

Sukkot (Feast of the Tabernacles) — Feast


Hoshanah Rabbah — More feasting

Simchat Torah — Keep feasting

Month of Heshvan — No feasts or fasts for a whole month. Get a grip on yourself.


Hanukkah — Eat potato pancakes

Tenth of Tevet — Do not eat potato pancakes

Tu B’Shevat — Feast

Fast of Esther — Fast

Purim — Eat pastry


  Passover — Do not eat pastry

Shavuot — Feast, especially dairy delights

17th of Tammuz — Fast (definitely no cheesecake or blintzes)

Tish B’Av — Very strict fast (don’t even think about cheesecake or blintzes)

Month of Elul — End of cycle. Enroll in Center for Eating Disorders before High Holidays arrive again

With this let’s enter the new annual cycle in good humor and waiting stomachs. I’m sure l’m not alone starting plan my menus for my Rosh Hashanah meals. Let’s see what I decide to cook this year.

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