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Lag BaOmer in the United States

Many Jewish people in the United States observe Lag B’Omer, also known as Lag BaOmer, on the 18th day of the month of Iyar in the Jewish calendar. The name of this observance means refers to the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer.

Is Lag BaOmer a Public Holiday?

This is not a public holiday in the United States. Most businesses, schools, and offices are open and follow regular hours, but Jewish-run businesses and organizations might be closed.

Some Jewish Americans participate in bonfire festivities on Lag B'Omer.

©iStockphoto.com/andrew dean

What Do People Do?

Jewish communities in the United States may celebrate Lag B’Omer by having bonfires for family and friends, while some Jewish people may choose to get married on this day. This is because mourning practices that occur during the Omer period are lifted on this date.

Some Jewish boys may not have their hair cut until they are three years old, when they begin to learn the Torah. Many wait until Lag B’Omer to have the ceremony, known as Upsherin, for this occasion. Some children play with bows, which represent rainbows. Some people eat carobs on this day in memory of a story about a carob tree that miraculously grew to provide sustenance for a rabbi known as Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai (whose teacher was Rabbi Akiba) and his son Elazar.

Public Life

Lag B’Omer is not a federal public holiday in the United States. Government offices, organizations, public transit services, and educational institutions operate to their usual schedules.

Background

The name of this Jewish observance refers to the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. An “omer” refers to a sheaf of barley or wheat. In the book of Leviticus, it is written 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 number was announced after the evening service, and in time this ceremony came to be known as the “counting of the Omer”.

The reason why the 33rd day of this period was singled out may have something to do with an ancient pagan festival that was celebrated at the same time. Another story claims that a plague attacked Rabbi Akiba’s students in the second century CE suddenly stopped on this day. Many Jewish people also mark this date by remembering the death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who was one of Rabbi Akiva's students. In any case, this observance represents a break in the season between Passover and Shavuot.

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 2 days to make sure that 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
2016ThuMay 26Lag BaOmerJewish holiday
2017SunMay 14Lag BaOmerJewish holiday
2018ThuMay 3Lag BaOmerJewish holiday
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

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.