And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years" Genesis 1:14

The Jewish Calendar

Fishing boats, Jaffa Harbour

Fishing boats, Jaffa Harbour

The Jewish holidays appear to shift around relative to our, Western - Gregorian, calendar.  Thus Tabernacles, for instance, may fall in September or October.  This is because the Jewish calendar is Lunar while the western calendar is Solar. (See also Christian Calendar)

Every four years the western calendar has to add a day ( 29th February ) to keep the calendar in step with the Earth's progress around the Sun.

The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, with twelve lunar months of 29 or thirty days, which is about ten days short of a solar year, so seven years in every nineteen have an extra month.  This ensures that the seasonal feasts keep to their correct season.  

Rosh Chodesh is the New Moon, which is the start of each month.  Biblically, Rosh Chodesh was determined by witnesses observing the first thin crescent of the moon.    In days before modern communication the new moon could not be notified to all dispersed communities so Rosh Chodesh is celebrated on two consecutive days outside Israel.

In Genesis Ch1 v14 GOD said, 

"Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky ..... to serve to mark the seasons and days of years." 

Biblically, the dates can not be predetermined, but are fixed by observation.   

See Karaite Korner on Biblical Holidays.

See also Rosh Chodesh to understand the importance of observation of the New Moon, as opposed to calculation.   

The same is true of the start of the year - The Month of the Aviv - The biblical year begins when the first new moon after the barley in the land of Israel reaches the state in its development that the Bible calls Aviv.    Only by checking the state of the barley crop can we fulfill the Biblical commandment to "Keep the Month of the Aviv"  (Deut 16:1).    This obviously determines when the other feasts should be celebrated,  for example, the Feast of Unleavened Bread;  ( "at the time of the month of the Aviv, because in the month of the Aviv you went out of Egypt."  -  Exodus 34:18)    (The 19 year cycle is an un-Biblical substitute for this observational method)

In Leviticus 23, Moses instructed the people that Nisan ( or Aviv  or Abib ) was to be the first month.   This is the religious calendar, as opposed to the civil calendar which starts at Rosh Hashanna.  

The seven seasonal feasts start with Passover (Pessach) (14th Nisan), which celebrated the creation of God's nation of Israel, and followed through to Tabernacles (Sukot) which celebrates Ingathering ( both as a harvest celebration and looking to God's ingathering of the righteous).  

Rosh Hashanna  ( New Year ) ( described with Yom Kippur) is now celebrated on the day of the feast of Trumpets.  Thus the Jews start the year with a call to self examination and repentance before God.

Jewish  calendar month Corresponding western calendar months in 2000
Nisan April May
Iyar May June
Sivan June July
Tamuz July August
Av  August
Elul September
Tishri September October
Heshvan October November
Kislev November December
Tevet December January
Shevat January February
Adar February March
Adar Bet (Leap month) March April

Feasts in the year 2013 to 2016 CE (western)    (5774 to 5776 Jewish)

* Some days can be moved, if they fall on Shabbat for instance
5778 5779 5780
Feast Hebrew date 2017 - 2018 2018 - 2019 2019-2020
Rosh Hashanna 1 Tishri   10 Sept 30 Sept
Fast of Gedaliah 3 Tishri   12 Sept 2 Oct
Yom Kippur 10 Tishri   19 Sept 9 Oct
Sukot 15 Tishri   24 Sept 14 Oct
Shemini Atzeret   (8th day) 22 Tishrei   1 Oct 21 Oct
Simchat Torah 23 Tishri   2 Oct  
Chanukah 25 Kislev-3 Tevet   3 Dec 23 Dec
Tu B'Shvat 15 Shvat   21 Jan 10 Feb
Esther / Purim 14 -15 Adar 1 Mar 19 Feb 10 Mar
Erev Pessach  (Seder Night) after 14 Nisan 30 Mar 19 Apr 8 Apr
Pessach 15 Nisan 31 Mar 20 Apr 9 Apr
Counting of the Omer  (1st day) 21 Nissan 1 Apr 21 Apr 10 Apr
Yom Hashoah 3 Iyar 18 Apr 2 May 21 Apr
Independence 4 Iyar 19 Apr 9 May 22 Apr
Lag B'Omer Iyar 18 3 May 23 May 12 May
Yom Yerushalayim 27 Iyar * 13 May 2 June * 22 May
Sha Vu Ot 6 Sivan 20 May 9 June 29 May
17th of Tammuz 17 Tamuz* 1 Jul 21 July * 9 July
Tisha Be Av 9 Av 22 Jul 11 Aug * 30 July has a programme for calculating the calendar, with extra detail, for years ahead. It may be wise to check the above dates before planning anything.

Incidentally, the Jewish calendar is calculated from Creation and therefore needs no BC or AD.   Jewish reference to the Western, Gregorian, calendar are CE or BCE;  CE standing for Common Era and Before Common Era.

Updated 10/04/18 - more yet to do

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