Jewish Feasts

Rita Moise

The Jewish feasts are full of symbolisms and meanings. They were preserved, and they are preserved, as much as, it is possible, from the Jews of Larissa, until today.
First feast of Jewish timetable is Ros-Asana that means head day of the Year. (New Year's Day). It is usually celebrated the month of September. Ros-Asana and the feast, which follows afterwards 10 days, Yom Kippur (day of propitiation) are not cheerful feasts. They are days of crisis from the God, concentration and self-criticism and that’s why, they are named Yamim Noraim (terrible days).

For the Jewish community, the dinners of Ros-Asana are festive and the evening (because the all Jewish feasts begin from the evening of eve), before dinner time, the family eats a bite bread with honey, in the meanwhile prayers are recited, so as the forthcoming New Year will be good and sweet
Yom Kippur, on the contrary, is a fast day that begins from the eve of the day which is celebrated. The feast finishes with the sunrise and the appearance of the first star. The practice of feast includes a one 24-hour period, literally, with fasting and prayer in the Synagogue and total abstinence from each material good. The day is dedicated exclusively to the spirit and to the thinking.

Five days afterwards the Yom Kippur, during October, begins Sukkot that lasts 8 days and is a festive event. “Sukkot” means "booths," and refers to the temporary dwellings that Jews are commanded to live in during their exit of Egypt.

At December is celebrated the Hanukkah which means which means "dedication" and it is referred also as the Festival of Lights. It is a celebration of the victory of the Maccabees and the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple. It also commemorates the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days at the Temple of Solomon. Commemorating this miracle, for eight days eight candles are burning at the Menorah.

Tu Bishvat follows Hanukkah and it’s also referred as the celebration of the “New Year of the Trees”. It takes place in the heart of the winter, usually sometime in late January or early February. It is a minor Jewish holiday but despite this remained alive during the centuries. Customs include planting trees and eating dried fruits and nuts, especially figs, raisins, almonds and others.

Purim is the most festive of Jewish holidays which lasts two days, usually sometime in March. Much as Hanukkah, Purim is connected with a historical event. Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people of the ancient Persian Empire from Haman's plot to annihilate them, as it is documented in the Megillat Esther (Biblical Book of Esther). Finally, Queen Esther foiled all the plans of the King Ahasuerus to kill the Jews that lived in his empire.

One month, afterwards Purim, Pessah (Easter) is celebrated, usually in April. It is referred to the Exodus of Jewish from Egypt. It commemorates their “victory” against oppression of the King Pharaoh. The core of the holiday is the “Seder night”, when full moon it in its peak. During the eight days of the holiday, it is forbidden to eat leavened bread and most baked goods. It also called also the Big Day of Celebration of the Freedom of Jewish people. It marks as well the renaissance of life, and the forthcoming of spring.

And the last, but not least festival in the list of important Jewish festivals is Shavuot, usually celebrated in late May or early June. Shavuot means seven weeks. These are the seven weeks that count from Pessah to Shavuot. It lasts two days and it marks the forthcoming of summer. It commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses and the Israelis at Mount Sinai. Customs include decorating houses with flowers and leafy branches, eating honey with milk and going for excursions out to nature.

Members of the Community in a Ribi Shihon Bar Yohai night
(Photo: Archives of Esdra D. Moise & Families of the Jewish Community of Larissa)
“Megillat Esther”, The Holy Biblical Book of Esther.
(Photo: Archives of Esdra D. Moise & Families of the Jewish Community of Larissa)
Performance “Esther” given by children of Jewish Community of Larissa (1938).
(Photo: Archives of Esdra D. Moise & Families of the Jewish Community of Larissa)
Celebrating Shavuot in the open space of Alcazar in the heart of Larissa, (1933).
(Photo: Archives of Esdra D. Moise & Families of the Jewish Community of Larissa)
Tu Bishvat (1970). Student of the Jewish school of Larissa plant trees with their teacher Jacob Fellus at the yard of the school.
(Photo: Archives of Esdra D. Moise & Families of the Jewish Community of Larissa)
Student of the Jewish school of Larissa celebrate Seder Pessah (1968)
(Photo: Archives of Esdra D. Moise & Families of the Jewish Community of Larissa)
Students of the Jewish school of Larissa are sing for the Hanukkah (1956)
(Photo: Archives of Esdra D. Moses & Families of the Jewish Community of Larissa)
Hatanim (men of Torah) during the Sucot Day with their wives (Hatanot= women of Torah) symbolically are getting engaged with Torah. It’s a very honorary position for couples that were just married to getting engaged with Torah during Sucot Day.
(Photo: AArchives of Esdra D. Moise & Families of the Jewish Community of Larissa)

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