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Shavuot, also called the Festival of Weeks, is one of three major Jewish holidays related to harvest and agriculture. Jews in the United Kingdom celebrate the day with prayers and Torah studies—and cheesecake.
May or June
Is Shavuot a Public Holiday?
No, Shavuot is not a bank holiday in the UK, so businesses, shops, and organizations usually follow regular hours.
How Is Shavuot Celebrated in the UK?
On Shavuot, Jewish people celebrate the Torah and thank God for handing it down to them. Synagogues across the United Kingdom are decorated with flowers and plants. They are meant to symbolize the flora of Mount Sinai where, according to Jewish holy scripture, Moses was presented with the Torah.
Some people stay awake all night to study the Torah. According to lore, the Jews who had traveled to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah were still sleeping when God appeared. This behavior is considered a particularly shameful part of Jewish history. So, by studying the Torah all night, Jewish people attempt to show God their appreciation for handing it down to them.
Dairy Dishes for Shavuot
The festive Shavuot meal is all about dairy foods. Recipes for the Shavuot menu include cheese blintzes (thin pancakes with cheese) or flatbread, creamy pasta, polenta, soups, cheese salads, cheesecakes, and ice cream.
However, Shavuot is one of the six Jewish holidays known as Yom Tov, and on these occasions, Jews celebrate by eating meat. Jews who are kosher, meaning they follow the religious laws for eating and preparing food, wait a while between eating dairy and meat products. Many Jews, therefore, have two meals on Shavuot. They first eat dairy, and, after waiting the required time, they sit down again to eat meat or fish.
History of Shavuot
Shavuot commemorates the moment when the Israelites received the Torah at Mount Sinai, an event which carries great significance for people of Jewish faith. Similar in terms of its religious motive and significance, the holiday is considered to be related to the Christian Pentecost celebration.
The timing of the holiday is related to agriculture: In Jewish culture, it traditionally marks the end of the barley harvest and the start of the wheat harvest. Because it is celebrated 7 weeks after Passover, another Jewish holiday with agricultural roots, it is also called the Festival of Weeks, the Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of the Harvest. In fact, Shavuot is the Hebrew word for weeks.
Who Celebrates Shavuot in the UK?
The United Kingdom is estimated to have the 5th largest Jewish population in the world, with just under 300,000 people practicing the Jewish faith in the country.
History of British Jews
Jewish settlement in England can be traced as far back as the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Jewish community outnumbered the Spanish and Portuguese communities in England by the 18th century.
Many Jewish families in Eastern Europe moved to England to escape persecution and hardship between 1881 and 1914. About 150,000 Jewish people settled in England during that time, with large numbers in London's East End. England continued to receive Jewish immigrants escaping persecution around the time of World War II (1939-1945).
About Shavuot in other countriesRead more about Shavuot.
Note: Jewish holidays begin at sundown the day before the date specified for the holiday.
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