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What is Lag B´Omer?

Celebrated on the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer holy period, Lag B´Omer (or Lag BaOmer) recalls great sages and ancient miracles.

Bonfires light up the night sky as part of Lag B´Omer festivities.

© iStockphoto.com/chameleonseye

Is Lag B´Omer a Public Holiday?

While this is not a public holiday in the United States, some Jewish-run organizations are closed on this date.

When Is Lag B´Omer?

Lag B´Omer is celebrated on the 18th day of the month of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls in May in the Gregorian calendar.

Counting of the Sheaves

The name of this holiday refers to the 33rd day of the Omer, which translates from Hebrew as a sheaf of wheat or barley.

A passage in the Torah´s book of Leviticus says that God commanded people to make an offering of a sheaf of barley on each of the 50 days between Passover and Shavuot.

The day numbers of 1-50 are called out in the temple after each evening service, a tradition that became known as the “Counting of the Omer”.

While the origin of this holiday is not entirely clear, some historians speculate that the 33rd day of this counting was singled out for celebration because an ancient spring festival was also celebrated on this date. Another popular theory is that this was the day that a plague that ravaged the famed Rabbi Akiva's students in the second century CE suddenly ended.

Bonfires and Bows

Bonfires often light up the sky to celebrate Lag B´Omer. Some scholars say this is meant to represent the teaching and enlightenment, or "spiritual light" brought into the world by 2nd-century Judean sage Simeon ben Yochai.

Other historians think there may be a connection between the traditional celebration of Lag B´Omer and European May Day festivals featuring bonfires.

In Israel, a major Lag B´Omer celebration is held at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, where large crowds celebrate with bonfires, torches, song, dancing, and feasting.

Archery bows also play a part in Lag B´Omer celebrations, particularly among children. The bow is meant to recall the rainbow sent by God in the aftermath of the great flood as a sign of hope. The Hebrew word for both bow and rainbow is keshet, so children are often encouraged to play games with bows and arrows as a special part of the observance.

A Ritual Haircut

Another Lag B´Omer tradition is upsherin, a ceremonial hair cutting usually given to three-year-old boys. In more religious and Hasidic communities, the boys typically have not had their hair trimmed before this age.

In fact, the Talmud forbids the cutting of hair during the entire Counting of the Omer period, except on the date of Lag B´Omer. In some places, the boy´s parents give out wine and sweets in celebration to onlookers while their child gets his first haircut.

Jewish Holidays Last Longer Outside of Israel

In the Jewish diaspora—Jewish communities outside of Israel—an extra day is usually added to religious observances, with the exception of Yom Kippur, which lasts only one day worldwide, and Rosh Hashana, which is celebrated over two days in both Israel and the diaspora.

This custom has its roots in ancient times when the beginning of the months in the Jewish calendar still relied on the sighting of the crescent Moon following a New Moon.

The beginning of a new month was determined by the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of ancient Israel in Jerusalem. Once the date was published, messengers were dispatched to spread the news among Jews living abroad. Since this process took some time, it was decreed that Jews outside of ancient Israel were to observe every holiday for two days to make sure the rules and customs applicable to each holiday were observed on the proper date. This rule is still observed today.

About Lag BaOmer in Other Countries

Read more about Lag BaOmer.

Lag BaOmer Observances

Note: Jewish holidays begin at sundown the day before the date specified for the holiday.

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2019ThuMay 23Lag BaOmerJewish holiday
2020TueMay 12Lag BaOmerJewish holiday
2021FriApr 30Lag BaOmerJewish holiday
2022ThuMay 19Lag BaOmerJewish holiday
2023TueMay 9Lag BaOmerJewish holiday
2024SunMay 26Lag BaOmerJewish holiday
2025FriMay 16Lag BaOmerJewish holiday
2026TueMay 5Lag BaOmerJewish holiday
2027TueMay 25Lag BaOmerJewish holiday
2028SunMay 14Lag BaOmerJewish holiday
2029ThuMay 3Lag BaOmerJewish holiday

While we diligently research and update our holiday dates, some of the information in the table above may be preliminary. If you find an error, please let us know.