There is much confusion in the church on what holidays the Lord wants us to celebrate today. Some people don't think God wants us to honor the sabbath or any Old Testament holidays because of scripture like Colossians 2:16-17 and Galatians 4:8-10. That scripture talks about holidays but also seems to say they should not be observed.
However, we cannot jump to conclusions about what a few verses may seem to say. We need to rightly divide or correctly handle God's words (2 Timothy 2:15) and view things in their complete and correct context to understand what God is really saying. Remember, too, that translation of God's original words can make correct interpretation difficult.
First, we know that honoring the weekly sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments. These are commands or laws (Psalm 119:152,160) that God wants all of mankind to obey. They were never cancelled when Jesus came, because He did not abolish the law (Matthew 5:17), and we can still see the effects of the Ten Commandments and God's other laws on people all over the world today.
Second, there are references to God's People observing holidays after Christ's return as we will see. So if God is telling us to continue honoring His holidays and sabbaths, then why does the church think God does not want them to be observed?
Part of the problem is in misinterpretation of scripture and jumping to the wrong conclusions about it. Let's look at Galatians 4:8-10. There, Apostle Paul is talking about holidays and idol worship, saying, "Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God - or rather are known by God - how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing specials days and months and seasons and years!"
Paul is obviously shaming the Galatians for observing holidays. In Galatians 4, he is talking about pagan holidays and traditions they were supposed to turn away from, since he talks about the Galatians previously not knowing God (which is not true of the Jews), their being slaves to idols (things that are not gods), and that they were going back to old, miserable principles (Galatians 4:8-9), which were their pagan worship and traditions they were enslaving themselves into again (Galatians 4:9).
Paul could also have been talking about rigidly keeping God's holidays and sabbaths in the Law of Moses for the Jews, since he also talked about the futility of trying to live by those rules in Galatians 2 and 3. Either mentality is not good, because they will enslave the person into legalistic following of commands, and for the Law of Moses, anyone trying to live as a Jew by those standards will be cursed and must follow all the rules as God originally gave, not as man changed or erroneously interprets (Galatians 3:10, 5:3; Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32; Nehemiah 10:28-29).
Paul also talks about being slaves to the Law of Moses in Galatians 4:21-31, and notes how we are no longer subject to that heavy yoke. Instead, we are to live by the freedom in Christ to not have to obey the Law of Moses like the Jews (Galatians 5:1-3), but that does not mean God took away His holidays and sabbaths or that He does not want us to keep anything from the Old Testament or Law of Moses. Both the Old Testament and Law of Moses have laws or commands that are intended for all people and not just Jews. Laws about sexual immorality are some examples (see Sex and Marriage - The Plain Truth for details).
Paul is reminding us that we are not to be legalistic or absolutely strict about observing holidays and sabbaths when we live in Christ, because if anyone claims to belong to God through the Law of Moses, then he is obligated to obey the whole law as all Jews are required to do, even today (Galatians 5:3). The Law of Moses still being in effect gives further proof that Jesus did not abolish law. He came to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17) and to teach about how God's commands changed under Him.
Paul's reminder about not being legalistic in observing holidays and the Law of Moses is what Colossians 2:16-17 talks about. Paul says, "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that are to come."
Paul is noting that we are not to let anyone judge our behavior in regard to God's holidays and regulations about eating and drinking. He is not saying God's sabbaths and holidays given in the Old Testament are no longer to be honored. The church often jumps to conclusions about what God means in verses like this to mean He does not want us to keep the sabbath or other holidays. But to correctly handle His word, we are to keep the context correct and only see that we are not to be judged by how we observe holidays and sabbaths or whether we observe them or not.
They are a "shadow of things to come", like the tabernacle of Moses was a shadow of heaven's sanctuary (Hebrews 8:1-5). They will be replaced later by better and different things. Who knows how we are to live and honor God's holidays and sabbaths in the next life?
For now, we need to keep the whole of God's word in view. It shows in scripture that feasts, like Tabernacles, are still to be observed even after Christ's second coming (Zechariah 14:16-19). Zechariah 14:16-19 also notes that families and nations that do not celebrate Tabernacles after the Lord's return will be cursed with drought. Obviously, this means Old Testament holidays are still important.
We should also remember we are one family under Christ, adopted into the heritage of the Jews (Ephesians 2:11-22, 3:6; Galatians 3:26-29; 1 Peter 2:9-10; Romans 10:12-13; also Romans 12:4-5), so we should know and observe Old Testament holidays and sabbaths.
The following is a list of holidays we should observe and guidelines for them. Just keep in mind the guidelines are suggestions. We should not fall back into the legalism required of the Jews or worry over getting things absolutely right. Simply try to honor God's holidays as our hearts move us. We are not given a spirit of slavery that leads to fear when we are saved in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:15; Luke 1:68-75; Galatians 5:1), so use these guidelines as just that, and don't worry about getting things wrong or that you must observe them. Just try to keep the right focuses for the theme of each and do not over emphasize man-made traditions with them, including those created by Jews, since they were affected by pagan and cultural forces throughout their history just as the church has.
- Weekly Sabbath or Shabbat/Sabbat (Hebrew) -
The weekly sabbath rest is commanded throughout the Old Testament (Exodus
20:8-11, 31:13-17, 34:21, 35:1-2; Leviticus 19:3, 19:30, 23:3,26:2;
Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Jeremiah 17:22; Ezekiel 20:20, 44:24), but the sabbath is also a part of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Psalm 119:152, 119:160), which are laws for all of mankind. This is is why the weekly sabbath should still be important to Christians.
The sabbath is the seventh day, which begins at sundown on Friday (the end of the sixth day) and ends on Saturday at sundown. Some people suggest that since the modern days of the week were not mentioned in the Bible, we can pick whatever day we wish as our sabbath. However, I do not believe we should do this. Our modern calendar was established by the church1 and its days of the week line up with the Jewish calendar days of the week, so I believe God wanted this alignment.
We should consider the weekly sabbath day as Saturday, which begins at sundown on Friday evening. In areas where there is no true sundown for long lengths of time, such as in the arctic, a reasonable time for the day's end should be chosen, like 7pm.
The sabbath is meant to be a day of rest and holy assembly, so worshiping and gathering for the Lord is suggested (Leviticus 23:3; Luke 6:6). Jews traditionally went to the temple on the sabbath to worship and learn, and Jesus noted in the New Testament that Jewish priests "worked" on the sabbath so they could perform their duties in the temple (Matthew 12:5).
Try not to do your usual work on sabbaths, like your normal wage earning jobs or major household chores. We should schedule things to work around the sabbath, but we should not be overly concerned about working or doing other strenuous activities on the sabbath either. Shopping or buying things on the sabbath is fine. However, if you have a business that requires a physical presence, it should be closed during the sabbath, so you and your employees get rest (Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:14).
Still, the sabbath is just a shadow of things to come (Colossians 2:17), so don't worry over trying to observe it perfectly. In deciding if you should do something on the sabbath, remember, it is lawful to do good on the sabbath (Matthew 12:12; Luke 6:9-10) and Jesus is Lord of the sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5), so we need to follow what His Spirit tells us to do in the moment and not worry if it seems to violate the sabbath.
God does not want us to become legalistic about observing the sabbath or holidays. The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath (Mark 2:27). God wants us to rest regularly, even every evening when we ought not to work (John 9:4). Regular rest is for our spiritual and bodily health as well as for our families' well-being, so that we may spend time together. Remember God, too, rested from His work.
- New Moons - New Moons are still relevant (Numbers 10:10,28:11-14; 1 Chronicles 23:3-31; 2 Chronicles 8:12-13). The months on Jewish calendars continue to begin on new moons and most of God's holidays depend on this lunar calendar. However, we do not need to be strict about celebrating New Moons or other holidays (Colossians 2:16-17). Meeting and worship, a trumpet blowing, and feasts are appropriate for New Moons (Numbers 10:10,28:11-14; Psalm 81:3-4; Isaiah 66:23; Ezekiel 45:17,46:3), though a simple recognition may be done just with prayer to acknowledge the New Moon and bless the coming month.
- Purim - This holiday celebrates how God saved the Jews from a royal decree to annihilate them when they were exiled in Babylon. God reversed their sorrow and turned it into rejoicing.
Traditionally, two days of feasting were commanded (Esther 9:21-22,27,31), accompanied by fasting, songs of lament, and gifts of food to each other and other gifts to the poor (Esther 9:19,22,31). It would be appropriate to fast the day before the feasting, such as from sundown the eve of Purim until the feast begins the next day. Singing songs of lament should be done during the fasting, like this lament for today's church2.
Psalm 81:3-4 may refer to blowing of shofars or trumpets on the first
feast of Purim, which should occur on a full moon. Purim,
Passover, and Tabernacles are the holidays listed here that should begin
near a full moon, since they are scheduled for the 14th or 15th day of a Jewish
month, which all begin on new moons and the full moon occurs halfway into the month.
- Passover/Feast Of Unleavened Bread or Pesach/Pesah/Pesakh (Hebrew) - This is a seven day festival that includes two days of assembly, six days of smaller seder meals (see below), and another day or two for a larger feast (Exodus 13:6). All the Passover meals are supposed to be eaten with unleavened bread (Exodus 12:15, 12:18-20, 13:6, 23:15, 34:18; Leviticus 23:6; Numbers 28:17; Deuteronomy 16:3-8; Ezekiel 45:21), and it is tradition to abstain from eating anything with bread yeast in it, but this is not an absolute necessity today. Removing bread yeast from homes is also no longer needed.
The two assembly days are considered sabbath days of rest when we should gather for the Lord (one on the first day of Passover when the second seder meal is had and one on the seventh day when the larger feast is had) (Exodus 12:16, 13:6, 23:15, 34:18; Leviticus 23:7-8; Numbers 28:18,25; Deuteronomy 16:1-8). Traditionally, another larger feast is done on an extra eighth day of Passover to allow the diaspora to celebrate, but this is not commanded in scripture and so it is optional (See "Additional Notes" at bottom for more about extra days in Jewish holidays).
Traditionally, bread yeast is removed from households and unleavened bread is eaten on Passover Eve in the first seder meal (the 14th of Nissan/Abib). The first Passover day is on the following day (the 15th of Nissan/Abib) when seder meals are continued until the feast day(s) (Leviticus 23:6; Exodus 12:15-20,13:6, 23:15, 34:18; Numbers 28:17; Deuteronomy 16:3,8; Ezekiel 45:21).
Also, the yeast used to make wine and other alcohol is different from bread yeast, so alcohol was not traditionally banned on Passover7. Though we don't have to be strict about avoiding bread yeast, eating unleavened bread, like matzo/matza/matzah and other unyeasted flat breads, for the days of Passover is a good thing to remind us of the affliction the Jews went through to leave Egypt during the original Passover. It is called the "bread of affliction" for that reason (Deuteronomy 16:3).
Passover is also related to Pascha or Easter (see below) since Pascha is Greek for Passover, so it is appropriate to remember Christ's resurrection on the Sunday following the first Passover meal. The Lord was resurrected on the first Sunday after the Lord's Supper, which was a first Passover meal when the lambs were sacrificed (Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12, Luke 22:7). So during the first seder of Passover it is appropriate to celebrate the Lord's Supper and make communion through the breaking of bread and drinking of juice or wine to remember the Lord as our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). Remember, too, communion is a holy affair, so propriety and reverence are important when you take communion during a meal (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).
Passover is one of three holidays the Lord specifically noted with
importance in the Old Testament as needing to be observed. The three
feasts were Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (Exodus 23:14-17, 34:23-24; Deuteronomy 16:16-17; 2 Chronicles 8:13).
Psalm 81:3-4 may refer to blowing of shofars or trumpets on the first
days of Passover, which should to occur on a full moon. Purim, Passover,
and Tabernacles are the holidays listed here that should begin near a
full moon, since they are scheduled for the 14th or 15th day of a Jewish month,
which all begin on new moons and the full moon occurs halfway into the
- Seder meals - "Seder" is the modern Hebrew term for the meals or feasts of Passover. Today's Jewish seders are often highly ritualized and strict about what
is served, but scripture only notes that roasted lamb, unleavened bread,
and bitter herbs (romaine lettuce, horseradish, or endives/escarole/chicory18,19) were to be eaten (Exodus 12:3-10, 13:6-10; Numbers 9:11).
Matzo, a dry cracker bread, is popular to use as the unleavened bread for Passover and other Jewish feasts, but any flatbread made without yeast can be used. I usually make my own flatbread for Passover.
Wine and other foods are also traditionally served at seders, but lamb is usually not served anymore17. However, that was a very important part of the first Passover meal (Exodus 12:3-10).
The experience of preparing to leave Egypt and traveling are usually a focus of seders and appropriate scripture and songs are sung and read. For further emphasis of this, you can eat seders with belts and shoes on as the Lord instructed, "Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded [belted], your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste - it is the Lord's Passover" (Exodus 12:11).
- Pascha (Easter) - Pascha is Greek for Passover, which comes from the Hebrew word for Passover (Pesach/Pesah/Pesakh). Most non-Westernized denominations have used the word, Pascha, to denote the holiday celebrating Christ's resurrection. It is a remembrance of God's gift of grace and Jesus' triumphant resurrection.
We should call this holiday Pascha and not Easter. The word "Easter" is a misnomer and is not appropriate to use in the celebration of Christ's resurrection. That word comes from spring festivals that worship pagan gods and have an ugly history3,4,5. God wants His People to be educated on these matters and to stop mixing up man-made beliefs and traditions with what is truly from Him, so we need to get away from the use of the word "Easter", egg hunts, and other commercialized Easter symbols.
Pascha is not supposed to be a celebration of spring, though Christ's resurrection is a symbolic renewal like spring. Modern Easter celebrations have bad focuses, like egg hunts, and focusing on spring, candy, and fun more than Christ. The symbolism of eggs and egg hunts is also interesting, because bird eggs represent useless/fruitless pursuits in spiritual guidance, so hunting for Easter eggs represent pursuing fruitless man-made activities.
Pascha means Passover and refers to Jesus being our Passover sacrifice, so it is appropriate to remember this on the Sunday following the first Passover feast as well.
- Pentecost or Feast of Weeks/First Fruits/Shavuot/Shavuoth - This holiday actually consists of two parts in the Law of Moses. The first was to gather some of the first growth of the crops and offer it to the Lord (Leviticus 23:9-14). This was to start after the Jews entered the Promised Land, and God said the offering was to happen on the day after the sabbath, which was one of the sabbaths for Passover, which is noted in Leviticus 23:5-8.
There was confusion about exactly which sabbath this offering was to happen[3.1.23], but in the New Testament, it was on the Sunday of Christ's resurrection, which was the Sunday after the first sabbath of Passover, since the Last Supper was a Passover Feast, and the Pentecost of Acts 2 happened a little after the 40 days Christ was with His disciples after His resurrection.
Pentecost or the actual Feast of Weeks is the second part of the holiday and is when it is celebrated (Exodus 34:22; Leviticus 23:15-21; Numbers 28:26; Deuteronomy 16:9-12). Pentecost means the 50th day from the Greek word[2.900.5.1] used for the holiday in the New Testament (Acts 2:1, 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8). It is to be celebrated on the seventh sabbath or fifty days after the offering (Deuteronomy 16:9-10; Leviticus 23:15-16). This was when the Holy Spirit came in power to the disciples in Acts 2 and manifested the Spirit in completeness for the New Covenant (see 111 in The Meaning of Numbers for more about that).
For the holiday, we are supposed to have a sabbath rest and gather for the Lord (Numbers 28:26; Leviticus 23:21). We are also supposed to remember how God's People were slaves in Egypt and celebrate with all our household and the community, including strangers or nonbelievers, like with Tabernacles and other festivals (Deuteronomy 16:11-12).
The symbolism of Pentecost goes with the symbolism of Christ being our Passover Lamb who was sacrificed on that Passover. When He was resurrected on Sunday, it went with the offering of first fruits to go with Christ's resurrection as the "first fruit" or very first resurrection into new angelic bodies for all of us in the church[3.1.23].
After that, when the Holy Spirit came in power on Pentecost it went with the first fruits or beginning of the harvest, which the festival celebrates, and represents the very beginning of the working and power of the New Covenant to give the Holy Spirit in completeness - both within ourselves as we are reborn with God's Spirit when we are saved (see The True Gospel and Imposters for details on how we are saved and reborn), and in continual filling and power as we continue in Christian lives.
Pentecost is one of three holidays the Lord specifically noted with importance in the Old Testament as needing to be observed. The three feasts were Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (Exodus 23:14-17, 34:23-24; Deuteronomy 16:16-17; 2 Chronicles 8:13).
- Feast Of Trumpets/Shouting/Sounding or Yom Teruah (Hebrew) (also called Rosh Hashana) - This holiday is widely known as Rosh Hashana, meaning "Head of the Year" and celebrated as a Jewish New Year on the first day of the seventh Jewish month of Tishrei, but a New Year is not the Biblical definition of the holiday in Leviticus 23:23-25 and Numbers 29:1 where it is defined by the Hebrew word, "teruah", meaning to make a loud noise or shout, like to signal joy or a war cry, typically with a trumpet or shofar. The term "Rosh Hashana" only mentioned in the Bible once in Ezekiel 40:1, where is has nothing to do with a holiday.
The Rosh Hashana holiday is believed to have come from pagan influences when the Jews were exiled in Babylon and incorporated foreign culture into Judaism, especially when Babylonian and Persian holidays often occurred at the same time as Jewish ones8.
The true Jewish New Year is the first day of the first Jewish month of Aviv/Nisan (Exodus 12:2). Passover commemorates that anniversary of leaving Egypt (Deuteronomy 16:6), 14 days after the New Year begins. A celebration is not commanded on the actual Jewish New Year's Day or Eve, though.
For Yom Teruah, a holy gathering should be made (Leviticus 23:24-25; Numbers 29:1) along with a sabbath rest and sounding of trumpets and/or shouting. I like to make a set of three long trumpet blasts followed by shouts of "Hurrah Israel! Hurrah New Jerusalem! The Lord reigns forever!" for God's People - Jew and Christian alike - and for Christ as our King, which we will see why soon it is appropriate for Yom Teruah.
Some people believe Jesus was born on Yom Teruah and conceived around Christmas. I believe this is true because two methods of determining Jesus' birthdate corroborate to point at Yom Teruah. One by Ernest L. Martin uses an astronomical alignment given by the vision of the woman or Bride giving birth in Revelation 12. Ernest found the needed alignment of the constellation Virgo (The Virgin), sun, and moon could only be fulfilled on Yom Teruah in 3 or 2 B.C.10
The other method11 is not as strong in validity, because it uses the time period when Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, performed his temple duties, and the fact that Christ was conceived during John the Baptist's sixth month in the womb (Luke 1:26).
Since Zacharias was in the priestly division of Abijah/Abia (Luke 1:5), he could have finished his week of temple duty in late May and conceived John the Baptist soon after he returned home (Luke 1:23-24). This assumes he was the only one from the Abijah division serving at the temple and his division was the eighth in rotation (out of 24 from 1 Chronicles 24:1-19) beginning from the first week of the Jewish year (Nissan 1 or the middle of March). If all that is true, then Jesus' conception can be worked out to be around the middle of December and born in middle or late September when Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles happens.
In my years of ministry, I've seen the Lord line up events and the physical world in great detail to convey messages (see 9/11 Prophecy for an example). I was even brought to begin and name my ministry late in 2008 through an astrological alignment that also involves the woman of Revelation 12 (see About the 3rd Compass Name and Logo for details). And because the Bible does not state why we are observing Yom Teruah, I feel it was because God held it in reserve for Christ. You will see why when you continue here and read about the next holidays.
The Bible only states Yom Teruah is a reminder or memorial (Leviticus 23:24). We also know that the blowing of trumpets celebrated the anointment of kings (1 Kings 1:39; 2 Kings 9:13, 11:12-14; 2 Chronicles 23:11-13) and that Rosh Hashana or a New Year took over the meaning of Yom Teruah. If all these things are joined, then it tells me that the trumpets and shouting are meant to commemorate Christ being born and anointed as King, bringing in, not a new year, but a New Age for the Jews and all of mankind.
It makes sense Christ would be anointed King at His birth and that Yom Teruah would memorialize it. However, there is no mention of Yom Teruah or trumpets being blown at Jesus' birth in the New Testament. However, that only makes Jesus like King David since they were both anointed king in secret and did not get a trumpet blowing.
I also note the sequence of holidays from Yom Teruah to Tabernacles and Shemini Atzeret line up with Jesus' life and purpose as follows:
- Yom Teruah/Rosh Hashana goes with Christ's birth and anointment as King to bring a new age.
- Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement goes with Christ's ministry in bringing the New Covenant, which atones for our sins.
- Days 1 to 7 of Tabernacles/Sukkot goes with how God continues to care and provide for His People despite the majority of the Jews rejecting God's plan and Christ, like they did in Numbers 13:3-14:38 when they rebelled against God's plan to take the Promised Land, and consequently were forced to wander the desert and live in tents or tabernacles for 40 years.
- Day 8 of Tabernacles/Sukkot goes with Christ's resurrection and God's renewal after hardship. See Tabernacles and Shemini Atzerat for more about that.
These many real world and scriptural alignments tell me the church has things wrong about Christ's birth, Christmas, and other holidays.
- Day Of Atonement or Yom Kippur (Hebrew) - From Leviticus 16:29-34, 23:26-32 and Numbers 29:7-11. It is a day to remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. It is a sabbath rest beginning at sundown on Yom Kippur Eve that should include reflection on our sins and asking God's forgiveness for them (noting specific sins when asking forgiveness is best).
Some people fast for Yom Kippur because some translations refer to "afflicting or denying" oneself in Numbers 29:7 from the Hebrew "anah". However, this word does not mean to fast from food, but is a general "to afflict, oppress, humble, or to be occupied with", which was used to mean "to deny or keep" oneself from working on a sabbath (Leviticus 16:31). The Hebrew word for fasting from food, "tsum", is used elsewhere in the fasting context but not in conjunction with the Day Of Atonement or any other atonement rituals, so we do not need to fast on Yom Kippur - instead it is more important to have a sabbath rest.
Paul mentioned "the fast" in Acts 27:9, which likely referred to Yom Kippur, so it appears the Jews fasted for this holiday in the first century. Still, we do not need to fast, since holidays and their rules are a shadow of things to come and we do not need to strictly adhere to these kinds of rules under the New Covenant. However, a holy gathering for Yom Kippur is commanded so we should gather for the Lord (Numbers 29:7).
On a Jubilee Sabbath/Sabbatical Year, which happens every 49 years, a trumpet is supposed to be sounded on the Day Of Atonement "to consecrate the 50th year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants" (Leviticus 25:9).
The Jubilee Year is called the 50th because it was the first one after a cycle of 49 years.
The official cycle of Jubilee Years was lost over time, but I believe
1967 was a Jubilee Year because of what Jonathan Cahn noted in his book,
The Mystery of the Shemitah, about the Jews reclaiming Israel in 1967.
He wrote, "The Israeli soldiers entered the Lion's Gate on June 7,
1967" and "The Jubilee is a year of restoration. So in 1967 Jerusalem
was restored to the Jewish people and the Jewish people to Jerusalem,"12
noting Leviticus 25:10 about the Jubilee Year, "It shall be a jubilee
for you, and each of you shall return to his own property..." Jonathan notes the next Jubilee Year would be September 2015 to September 201613, since Jubilee Years go by the Jewish calendar.
- Feast Of Tabernacles/Booths/Ingathering or Sukkot/Succot/Sukkos/Sukkah (Hebrew) and the Last Great Day/Eighth Day or Shemini Atzeret (Hebrew) - This is an eight day remembrance with seven days of feasting stated in Leviticus 23:33-43, Numbers 29:12-38, Deuteronomy 16:13-15, Exodus 23:16, 34:22 and Zechariah 14:16. The first and last days are sabbath rests (Leviticus 23:35,36) and feasts are made on the first seven days.
On the first day of Tabernacles we are supposed to take choice fruit from trees, palm fronds, and leafy branches from trees, like poplars or willows, to celebrate with the Lord during the seven days of the festival (Leviticus 23:40). I suggest getting or making one or more centerpieces or bouquets of fruit and foliage for your dinner table(s) for the seven feasts.
"Native-born" Israelites, especially, are also supposed to live in "tabernacles/booths" or temporary shelters during the first seven days, so that we can remember how God had His People live in tents when He brought them out of Egypt (Leviticus 23:42-43). Though we do not have to literally live in tents during this holiday anymore, we should certainly make efforts to remember the nomadic lives of the Jews during their many years wandering the desert.
Modern Jews often build a sukkah for Tabernacles. It is a simple temporary shelter with a roof, like a gazebo or pop-up canopy, where the meals are eaten and sometimes for people to sleep under during Tabernacles.
On a Shemitah Year, the reading of the Law of Moses was done for all the people assembled at the feast (Deuteronomy 31:10-13), though a specific time during Tabernacles is not noted in scripture. This reading was done so all, including children and even foreigners to God, could learn about God's ways and know the fear of the Lord. This reading should not be confused with the holiday of Simchat Torah, which is not in scripture, but happens every year on the same day or nearly the same day as Shemini Atzeret or Eighth Day of Sukkot. Simchat Torah, means "Rejoicing in Torah or the Law" is not recorded in Jewish tradition until the 1st century A.D. and later[20,21].
Psalm 81:3-4 may refer to blowing of shofars or trumpets on the first
feast of Tabernacles, which should occur on a full moon. Purim,
Passover, and Tabernacles are the holidays listed here that should begin near a full moon, since they are scheduled for the 14th or 15th day of a Jewish
month, which all begin on new moons and the full moon is about halfway into a new month.
The last day of Tabernacles is called the Last Great Day or Shemini Atzeret (Hebrew). It is not a separate holiday from Tabernacles but is the capping off of Tabernacles. It is a day to remember the renewal and resurrection hope we have in God since the Hebrew "shemini" means eighth and the number eight means renewal and resurrection6. The first seven days of Tabernacles is a remembrance of the nomadic hardships the Jews lived through in the desert for decades because of their disobedience to God (Numbers 14:22-37), but the last day of Tabernacles symbolizes God's renewal after hardship, so we should celebrate and look forward to God's promised renewal and resurrection with expectation and hope, like the Jews experienced when they finally crossed into the Promised Land.
Today this is analogous to our looking forward to renewal and resurrection with Christ. He was also renewed and resurrected on the eighth day (Sunday is the eighth and first day of the week). His renewal promises many things we can look forward to with hope - Jesus' final return, our bodily resurrection with that return, and the unity of His People in His kingdom's New Jerusalem (today's Promised Land we look forward to) and eventually the New Heaven and Earth when creation will be a perfected reality and when all sorrow and death will be taken away (Revelation 21:4). So even if we've been disobedient to the Lord, we can still be grateful for His mercy and look forward with Christ when we are sealed by His promise of eternal salvation through the New Covenant. Let that be remembered on Shemini Atzeret as well.
Along with sabbath rests, holy gatherings were commanded for the first and last days of Tabernacles (Numbers 29:12,35; Leviticus 23:36), which would be on the day of the first feast and the day after the last feast or on the Last Great Day/Shemini Atzeret (the eighth day).
Tabernacles also seems to be of greater significance than other holidays since it is mentioned as a required yearly worship for all families and nations that are left of those who warred against Jerusalem at the Lord's return (Zechariah 14:16-19). Zechariah 14:16-17 notes nations and families must "go up to Jerusalem" to do this, so it will be a mandated annual pilgrimage.
Tabernacles is one of three holidays the Lord specifically noted with
importance in the Old Testament as needing to be observed. The three
feasts were Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (Exodus 23:14-17, 34:23-24; Deuteronomy 16:16-17; 2 Chronicles 8:13).
- Hanukkah/Chanukkah/Feast Of Dedication/Festival Of Lights - This eight-day holiday was not commanded in the Bible, but it is mentioned in the New Testament and listed here for reference, because all of God's People, whether Jew or Christian need to know what it is about. We are one in Christ and so share a common history and heritage (Ephesians 2:11-22, 3:6; Galatians 3:26-29; 1 Peter 2:9-10; Romans 10:12-13; also Romans 12:4-5).
It is not clear if God commands this holiday to be observed, but it does have significance with the New Covenant in its symbolism of renewal and re-dedication. The only mention of Hanukkah in the Bible is in John 10:22, which only shows that the Jews celebrated the holiday when Jesus was in Jerusalem.
Hanukkah is not a Jewish Christmas. It celebrates a miracle of re-dedicating God's temple in Jerusalem after the Jews forcefully took it back from Greek-Syrian occupation in the 2nd Century BC. Hanukkah is Hebrew for "dedication" or "to dedicate". It refers to the dedication ceremony where the menorah or lampstand (Exodus 25:31-40; Numbers 8:1-4) was to be lit for eight days (the number eight means renewal and resurrection6). However, the Jews found they only had one day of oil for the lamps. They lit them anyways and found the lamps kept burning for the whole eight days.
This miracle is like the feeding of thousands by Jesus with only a few fish and loaves of bread (Matthew 14:13-21,15:32-38; Mark 6:33-44,8:1-9; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14), however, when Jesus was in Jerusalem during Hanukkah, the New Testament does not say He celebrated it. It does say He told the Jews at that time that He was indeed equal with God and they tried to kill him for it (John 10:25-38).
God may not require us to celebrate Hanukkah, but we should remember what it means historically, and how it relates to Christ's temple "re-dedication". Jesus destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and rebuilt/replaced it with His bodily resurrection (John 2:19-22), which also includes our rebirth through faith and confession in Him, so that we are also temples of God where His Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 6:19; Acts 2:38).
That miracle of dedicating imperishable temples in every saved believer needs to be emphasized during Hanukkah, so that our Jewish brethren may be brought into God's light and grace through Christ.
- Christmas - This holiday commonly celebrates the birth of Christ. However, there is no Biblical support for this. The choosing of December 25th as Jesus' birthdate is also mixed with pagan celebrations of the winter solstice9. I believe this date is actually around when Christ was conceived in the womb and Yom Teruah/Rosh Hashana (usually celebrated in September) is actually when Jesus was born (see Trumpets/Yom Teruah/Rosh Hashana above).
This mix-up explains why we see no scripture evidence supporting Jesus' birth in winter. The New Testament says Mary and Joseph were traveling at that time for a census, which is unlikely to be ordered during the colder months of winter (Luke 2:1-7), since the census at the time required people to travel and register at their place of tribal origin (Luke 2:1-5)14.
Some people think that because shepherds were in the fields with their flocks when Jesus was born (Luke 2:8) meant it was too cold for Christ to be born in December. However, December is part of the rainy season in Israel and the temperatures were moderate (well above freezing with lows in the high 40's F), so flocks were out in the fields at night during December to take advantage of the extra growth in the pastures15.
Others use that information to validate December 25th as Christ's birth, but there are two methods of dating Christ's birth that corroborate to point at Yom Teruah/Rosh Hashana, so I believe the church's selection of December 25th for Christ's birth is in error. See Yom Teruah for more.
Another important thing to note is God has pointed out how man-made traditions and worldly focuses have corrupted Christmas and moved its focus away from Christ and onto worldly and commercialized versions of love and giving. Our focus for Christmas should be on the gift and grace of Christ coming to earth and not on giving gifts, decorating trees and property, gathering for family, or even "Christmas/holiday spirit" that leaves out God and Christ. We should keep our focus on Jesus' coming and God's grace when we celebrate Christmas.
- Other holidays, like Palm Sunday, Lent, Saint Patrick's Day and other Saints' Days and religious holidays - I do not list other holidays because I've not seen explicit guidance from God to observe them. However, I must note that God has guided us on how people often mix up His holidays and things with their own traditions and ideas, which are often based on pagan beliefs or are completely man-made. God wants us to get away from these mixed up beliefs and practices. They have tainted God's holidays, like Christmas and Pascha/Easter with ungodly influences. This has happened with many holidays, such as St. Brigid's Day, where the deeds of real saints have been mixed up with pagan deities and festivals.
I do not treat these days as God ordained holidays, but if they celebrate a real godly triumph, like Palm Sunday and St. Patrick's Day, I will recognize and remember the event and try to keep my focus on what God wants us to keep in the forefront, such as St. Patrick's Day should be remembered as God's gift of Christ through the martyred saint to save Ireland and not a day to promote Irish nationalism or culture.
People have also mixed their own traditions and cultural influences into God's holidays wherever they have settled through the centuries, so remember that even God's ordained holidays are only a shadow of things to come and we should not fret about observing them perfectly or in any certain way unless God tells us to. Simply try to honor the spirit of each holiday and remember why God wants us to celebrate them.
Jewish calendars often show two days of celebration when only one was commanded. This comes from the ancient tradition of allowing the diaspora or the Jews in farther provinces of Babylon, time to be informed of the official days of a new month16. The Hebrew months begin on New Moons, which were defined by physical observation of the sky by the Jewish central leadership - the Sanhedrin at the time. But because the Jews were exiled to many parts of Babylonia it could take days for the outer provinces to get word of the official calendar, so they decided to double-up certain holidays so that the outer provinces would not miss the holiday.
1 Huynh, Ty Alexander. "Passover and Covenant Protection". 1/19/2011. Light Behind The Veil. 3rd Compass - Christ Hephzibah Church.
2 Huynh, Ty Alexander. "A Purim Song Of Lament For God's Bride". 3rd Compass - Christ Hephzibah Church.
3 "It is Pascha, not Easter!".
4 "Pagan Origins Of Easter".
5 "The Origin Of Easter".
6 Huynh, Ty Alexander. "The Meaning Of Numbers". 3rd Compass - Christ Hephzibah Church.<http://3rdcompass.org/core/go?v=NBRS>
7 "Why is it permitted to drink wine on Passover?".
8 "How Yom Teruah Became Rosh Hashana".
10 Martin, Ernest L. The Star That Astonished The World. Association For Scriptural Knowledge. 1991. Print.
12 Cahn, Jonathan. "The Mystery of the Shemitah and the Restoration of Jerusalem". The Mystery of the Shemitah. pg. 269-270. Lake Mary, Florida. Frontline. 2014. Print.
13 Cahn, Jonathan. "The Mystery of the Shemitah and the Restoration of Jerusalem". The Mystery of the Shemitah. pg. 272. Lake Mary, Florida. Frontline. 2014. Print.
14 "Notes for Luke 2:3". Page 2080. The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB). Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2006. Print