Home   Calendar   Holidays   United States   Shavuot
Flag for USA

What is Shavuot?

Jewish communities recall the date Moses received the Ten Commandments and celebrate a time of harvest on Shavuot.

Also known as the Festival of Weeks, Shavuot is marked by food, prayers, and green decorations.

© iStockphoto.com/chameleonseye

Is Shavuot 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 Shavuot?

Shavuot is celebrated on the 6th day of the month of Sivan in the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls in May in the Gregorian calendar.

A Sacred Pact in the Desert

Shavuot represents both the end of a holy period of seven weeks after Passover and the start of the covenant, or sacred pact, between God and the Jewish people.

The biblical story holds that while the Israelites were encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai, Moses climbed to the summit and received the Ten Commandments on the 50th day after their flight from slavery in Egypt. On that day, it is said the mountain bloomed into greenery.

Today, Shavuot is used to focus on spiritual cleansing meant to purify worshippers for a new year, and to celebrate the first harvest of crops.

In more religious communities, students may stay up all night to study the Torah on the eve of Shavuot. This tradition is thought to be an act of repentance for the Israelites, who were said to have overslept on the day that Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the commandments.

First Fruits and Cheesecake

For many Jews, Shavuot is primarily a harvest celebration. In ancient times, a gold basket bearing the first “fruits” or harvest of crops was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem on this date. Among the offerings were barley, dates, figs, grapes, olives, pomegranates, and wheat. Today, symbolic baskets are often created for the holiday and may include other crops grown in Jewish communities.

Another modern tradition is eating dairy foods. The biblical reason for this is that Shavuot is connected to the nation´s exodus from Egypt into the Promised Land, where, according to the Book of Exodus, the Jews went "From the misery of Egypt to a country flowing with milk and honey…" (Exodus 3:8-17).

In the Ashkenazi, or European Jewish community, foods made with dairy products like cheesecake and blintzes are served to echo that scripture passage. Sephardic or North African Jewish communities prefer cheese kelsonnes (a kind of ravioli) and a seven–layer cake known as Siete Cielos (Seven Heavens) to celebrate the day.

Some other religious traditions have holidays that echo the timing of Shavuot. The Christian festival of Pentecost, for example, is observed seven weeks, or 49 days, after Easter Sunday, and celebrates a similar idea of the passing of divine wisdom or spirit to a group of followers.

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 Jews outside of ancient Israel were to observe every holiday for two days to make sure that the rules and customs

About Shavuot in Other Countries

Read more about Shavuot.

Shavuot Observances

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

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2019SunJun 9ShavuotJewish holiday
2020FriMay 29ShavuotJewish holiday
2021MonMay 17ShavuotJewish holiday
2022SunJun 5ShavuotJewish holiday
2023FriMay 26ShavuotJewish holiday
2024WedJun 12ShavuotJewish holiday
2025MonJun 2ShavuotJewish holiday
2026FriMay 22ShavuotJewish holiday
2027FriJun 11ShavuotJewish holiday
2028WedMay 31ShavuotJewish holiday
2029SunMay 20ShavuotJewish 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.