Jewish Dopers: what holidays do you observe?

I was looking at this list of Jewish religious holidays and wondered “does the typical Jewish really observe all these days”? Obviously I know Passover is celebrated more than Shavuot, so there’s got to be some difference in observance. So which do you and your family observe? What difference is there between Orthodox, Reform, secular Jewish, and interfaith family observance? And which are almost universally observed amongst Jews?

I am very secular. I celebrate Passover and Hanukkah with some of my family. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t celebrate anything. Passover and Hanukkah are probably the most celebrated. After that would be the High Holidays. Technically Shabat (Friday night/Saturday) morning is a holiday so that one is common too even if it’s only lighting a candle.

Israeli Jew, secular/traditional, grew up in a Conservative congregation.

I observe them all, except for Tisha B’Av (and the other minor fast days).

I only go to shul on Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Simchat Torah and sometimes Purim; I celebrate the others with the at-home religious stuff, and of course, with meals.

In order:

  1. Rosh Hashana - we hold a “Rosh Hashana Seder”, a custom we picked up from our Sephardic side. A big meal with a more freewheeling ceremony than the Passover Seder. I also go to shul for at least one of the days.

  2. Yom Kippur - I fast, and spend the whole evening and day in shul. Have a big meal of pasta with meat sauce before, and a big dairy meal after.

  3. Sukkot - do the blessings on the first night. I try to have at least one meal in a Sukkah - I can’t built one myself (apartmnent), so it’s usually at my parents’.

  4. Smchat Torah - I go to shul and dance around.

  5. Hanukkah - I light candles every night, sing, eat the latkes and donuts, and give my kid presents. It’s an 8-day school vacation here, so it’s a big holiday.

  6. Tu Bishvat - dried fruit and cheeses. Hiking if we get around to it, to see the almonds blooming.

  7. Purim - costumes! I went as the 11th Doctor last year, fez and all. We also have lots of humentaschen.

  8. Passover - the big one. We have a big Seder, one year with my parents, one year with my wife’s. With my parents we read the entire Haggadah; with hers, just the part before the meal (they’re atheists). Huge meal, lots of good food. I keep kosher for Passover (Sephardic rules - I’m not crazy). Note that as Israelis, we only have one Seder.

  9. Lag Ba’Omer - bonfire! Usually these days it’s with my son’s class.

  10. Shavuot - big dairy meal, ceremony at home. We dress in white. There’s usually a big school pageant with kids dancing with baskets of fruit.

  11. Tu B’Av - chocolate, flowers, wine. Sex.

I’m a not very observant Jew but in the past 10 years I’ve celebrated Passover, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Hanukkah most often. I will go to Sabbath services when I’ve visiting my parents.

Back when I was involved with the religion, as a Reform Jew, I celebrated
Rosh Hashana
Yom Kippur

This is pretty much the common holiday group among my Jewish friends.

I might have gone to Temple for Sukkot and Purim.

Atheist. Nonetheless, for some reason I cannot put my finger on, I fast on Yom Kippur. Maybe just to show I can. I enjoy going to someone else’s seder and even participate in the reading from the Haguddah. And we give presents at Hanukkah to our grandchildren (and used to to our children when they were children. I neither give nor receive gifts from other adults. My wife might make a batch of homentashen for Purim, should she be moved to. Otherwise the holidays pass us by.

Secular in a mixed family. Growing up (reform) I celebrated Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Channuka, Purim and Pesach. To this day Passover and Rosh Hashanah are two of my favorite holidays and I still celebrate them every year. I stopped observing Yom Kippur a few years ago though I always intend to fast/go to shul, and I occasionally miss the celebration of Sukkot and Purim but never enough to do anything about it.

Now that my child is no longer a toddler I am making more of an effort though, if only so I can pass along the cultural touchstone. We did a big Channuka dinner this year and lit the candels all eight nights and are trying to do a weekly Shabbat dinner and have plans for a get together with my family for Pesach.

Atheist. None since I was six years old.

These are the ones I observe as well.

I’m orthodox and I observe all of them.

Another atheist. I can’t think of any holiday I celebrate, other than Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas (I don’t know the Hebrew names for these).

I observe all of them, though my “observance” of Tu B’Shvat is limited to not saying the Tachanun during prayer services.

Secular family. We observed Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Chanukah, and Passover (though not strictly). We vague knew about Sukkoth and Purim, but didn’t do much.

Several of these holidays are jolly festivals (Hanukkah in particular), and some are ponderously solemn (Yom Kippur). Whether and how they are celebrated might also depend a lot on whether there are young children in the family, or if there even is a family. At least as practiced in American Reform Judaism, the more festive holidays are made very much into children’s holidays, or family-oriented holidays.

Hanukkah is the obvious case. Passover is also very family-oriented, by definition: The Old Testament admonishes the Jews repeatedly to always remember and never forget who brought the Jews out of Egypt, and exhorts the parents to teach their children. (I think maybe even the New Testament probably mentions this?) So Passover has developed very much as a teaching holiday, where the parents teach the kids the whole megillah. Oh wait, that’s a different holiday. The whole Seder exercise, with the symbolic foodstuffs and all the other symbolism and storytelling, is designed as a lesson for the kiddies.

Purim is also a very kiddie-oriented festival, as commonly practiced today. Costumes, gregors, pageants. Sukkot has a generally festive theme too.

So I’d expect those holidays to be the most observed in families with kids, or even among adults who belong to congregations with a lot of kids.

Is there some reluctance to write the word “Jew”? “Jewish” is not a noun.

Atheist Jew. I’d say I only celebrate Hannukah, Passover and Rosh Hashonah, but even those I only celebrate when my family gets together and plans to, and since my grandmother died and my aunt & uncle moved away, we haven’t really even done those.

Sorry I messed up; meant to write “Jewish person”.

Ok - but “Jew” is shorter and more succinct. I see this reluctance on the part of non-Jews to use the word quite often. Not sure why.

A lot of folks consider it not politically correct to say “Jew,” since it’s often used as a pejorative. You’re supposed to say “Jewish person.”

This Jew here was raised reconstructionist. I generally go to synagogue on the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur), but not all of 'em. A lot of times for Yom Kippur I only go to Kol Nidre. I celebrate Hannukah with my family, though sometimes I forget to light the menorah every night.

I celebrate Passover by having a huge meal for my gentile friends and telling them the story.

If I celebrate Purim, it’s only because Rava told us that it’s a mitzvah to get completely shitfaced on that day, and who am I to argue with such a sage?

The others? Not really since college, when I was involved with Hillel.

“Person of Mosaic persuasion”