Many Jewish people in Canada mark Hoshana Rabbah (or Hoshana Raba) as the last day of Sukkot (Succot, Succoth, Sukkoth) in their calendars. This day is the end of the Sukkot period, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles. The Sukkot festival is observed during the week starting on the 15th day of Tishri (or Tishrei), which is the first month of the year in the Jewish calendar.
Is Hoshana Rabbah a Public Holiday?
Hoshana Rabbah is not a public holiday. Businesses have normal opening hours.
What Do People Do?
Hoshana Rabbah is the last day for many Jewish Canadians to dwell in the sukkah but some traditional followers continue to stay in this temporary structure through to Shmini Atzeret, which starts after Hoshana Rabbah. Many Jewish people in Canada consider Hoshana Rabbah as the final day of the divine judgment when people’s fate for the New Year is determined. The Hoshanot prayers are recited and a special ritual involving the “four species” (plants) is performed.
The last day of Sukkot is not a nationwide public holiday in Canada. However, many Jewish businesses, schools and organizations may be closed or offer a reduced level of service.
The Sukkot period is a time to remember the Jewish people’s wandering in the desert for 40 years following their exodus from Egypt, according to Jewish teachings. It is also a time to celebrate the grape harvest. Some sources claim that Sukkot lasts for about seven days while others state that it is an eight-day festival.
The seventh day of Sukkot is known as Hoshana Rabbah while the eighth day is known as Shmini Atzeret and the day after is called Simchat Torah. Hoshana Rabbah is known as the day of the final sealing of judgment, which began on Rosh Hashanah.
An important Sukkot symbol is the sukkah. This is a temporary structure with a roof made of sechach or s’chach, which is raw, unfinished plant material, such as palm branches, bamboo poles, reeds or even corn stalks.
The “four species” are also important symbols of Sukkot and represent the blessings of nature. These are lulav (a green, closed frond of a date palm tree), hadass (twigs and leaves from a myrtle tree), aravah (twigs and leaves from a willow tree) and etrog (a lemon-like fruit of the citron tree).
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.