Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Pesach and Sukkot

There are a number of festivals and special days within Judaism – each with a different meaning.

Rosh Hashanah

This is the Jewish New Year which takes place over a ten-day period and ends with Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah begins with the sounding of the shofar (horn) as a call to repentance. It represents the day God created the world, and it is on this day that Jews stand before God to repent and be judged on what they have done in the past year.

The sounding of the shofar is a call to repentance

For many, this is a time for prayer and many will not sleep on the first night in order to dedicate time to prayer. There are midnight services in the synagogue, those present say sorry and ask for forgiveness from God. Sweet food is eaten and there is a traditional family meal at home.

Yom Kippur

This is known as the Day of Atonement. It is a day of confession that comes at the end of Rosh Hashanah.

Yom Kippur is a day of fasting, and so before this begins a meal is eaten to prepare. Services based on confession and repentance take place at the synagogue and the people show their thanks for the love and mercy of God.

The sounding of the shofar (horn) signals the end of Yom Kippur.


Pesach is a time for joy for the Jewish people, even though the events it recalls were a time of sadness. Outside of Israel, this lasts eight days. Within Israel, it lasts seven days. There are Seder meals on the first two days. A Seder meal takes place when members of the extended family are present to retell the events of the Exodus.

Pesach is also known as Passover. It celebrates the escape of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt over 3000 years ago. It reminds Jews that God will come to the aid of His people when needed. It is a time to remember the past, to show hope for the future, to show faith in God, to celebrate with family and to remember responsibility to others (especially those who are less fortunate).


Sukkot is a time when Jews remember the trek through the desert to the Promised Land. They build makeshift huts, living in these for a week to try and recreate the conditions their ancestors lived in.

A Jewish man covers the roof of a hut with leaves for Sukkot

Heritage and ancestry is an important part of Jewish tradition. Sukkot allows the Jews to have a sense of belonging to their ancestors by recreating the events they lived through.