Many Jewish people in Canada 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 B’Omer a Public Holiday?
Lag B’Omer is not a public holiday. Businesses have normal opening hours.
What Do People Do?
Lag B’Omer is generally a day of celebration and joy for many Jewish people in Canada because mourning practices that occur during the Omer period are lifted on this date. Many Jewish communities in Canada celebrate Lag B’Omer by hosting various social events. They usually include a bonfire and are held outdoors, particularly if the weather is sunny.
Some of these events take place in the form of street festivals, while others are annual Lag B’Omer family barbecues or picnics that include live music and entertainment. Many Lag B’Omer festivities in Canada include opportunities for adults to socialize and for children to engage in fun activities such as spending time with farm animals. Some Lag B’Omer celebrations that are targeted at young audiences, such as teenagers, feature activities such as paintball games.
Lag B’Omer is not a federal public holiday in Canada so many Lag B’Omer events are held after school or work hours (if not during the weekend), usually in the afternoon or early evening. Government offices, organizations, public transit services, and educational institutions operate to their usual schedules.
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 that 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.