Yom Kippur 2021

Yom Kippur Meaning and Traditions

August 19, 2021
Jewish Art
Suzy Glaser

In 2021, Yom Kippur begins at sunset on September 15. Learn about the meaning behind Yom Kippur, as well as the special traditions and recipes related to this holiday. 

What Is Yom Kippur?

Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement” in Hebrew. This is the holiest Jewish holiday of the year and ends the ten days of High Holidays or “Days of Awe,” which begin with Rosh Hashanah.

  • Traditionally, Jewish people refrain from work and all adults fast from sundown the evening before Yom Kippur until nightfall the next day.
  • This day is about asking God to forgive sins, reflecting on past mistakes accepting repentance, and praying.
  • Fasting is seen as a way to cleanse and purify the body and soul.
  • Many will wear all-white clothing to also symbolize purity.
  • On the day of Yom Kippur itself, there are many traditional prayers. One of the most important prayers describes the atonement ritual performed by high priests during ancient times.
  • Yom Kippur ends with a single blast that is blown on the shofar—a trumpet made from a ram’s horn.

When Is Yom Kippur 2021?

Yom Kippur is held on the 10th day of Tishrei, ten days after the start of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year).

Note that the Jewish calendar is different than today’s civil calendar (the Gregorian calendar). It is a “Luni-Solar” calendar, established by the cycles of the Moon and the Sun, so the lengths of days vary by the season, controlled by the times of sunset, nightfall, dawn, and sunrise.

All Jewish holidays begin at sundown on the date listed.

Yom Kippur Dates

Year Hebrew Year Yom Kippur Begins
2021 5782 Sunset September 15, 2021 (to nightfall September 16)
2022 5783 Sunset October 4, 2022 (to nightfall October 5)
2023 5784 Sunset September 24, 2023 (to nightfall September 25)
2024 5785 Sunset October 11, 2024 (to nightfall October 12)

    Yom Kippur Traditions

    The day before Yom Kippur (and fasting), a special and bountiful meal is enjoyed with a candle lighting at the end of the meal. Many people remember those who passed before them. Some Jewish people also visit cemeteries on this day before Yom Kippur.

    Another tradition leading up to Yom Kippur is to perform charitable acts. Many poeple give money or time to the poorest among them.

    After Yom Kippur ends with the shofar, there is much celebration, music, and dancing. A festive “break-the-fast” meal is served with lots of satisfying breakfast foods such as bagels and spreads, kugel, blintzes, and egg dishes. See how to make your own bagels!

    If you observe Yom Kippur, please share your traditions below!



    Reader Comments

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    Yom Kippur

    I, too, am a Christian who observes the Feasts of the Lord. Thank you so much for your recognition of this time appointed by God!

    The Day of Atonement

    I enjoyed reading your article on Yom Kippur observed by the Jewish people. I am a Christian and have observed this holy day of Atonement given by God to all his people for the last 55 years. The key point is Leviticus 23 calls them the feasts of the Lord, not just the Jewish feasts. There are 7 annual festivals given by God and my family and I and many others observe them annually. Do a search and you will find many Christians observe them. They are full of deep meaning of our past and future.

    Worshiping Shabbat

    One does not worship Shabbat. One Worships G-d during Shabbat. It is a day of rest and contemplation. G-d rested on the 7th Day of Creation (according to tradition). Therefore, we rest on the 7th day (for us, it is Saturday).

    Agriculture and the solar/ lunar cycles

    Thank you for all that your publication provides. This helps to heal the gap between Judaism and Christianity. Your works preserve the historical context of the role of the preservation of the knowledge of the continuity and intertwining of the solar and lunar cycles.


    The traditional greeting for Yom Kippur is "Gmar hatima tova". The English equivalent is "May you be sealed in the book of life".

    Yom Kippur Atonement

    An important concept of atonement in Judaism is that on Yom Kippur we spend the day atoning for sins against G-d and asking for forgiveness and to be written in the Book of Life for the year. However, for sins or just wrongs one has committed against another individual, we must specifically ask that individual for forgiveness as G-d cannot grant that for us.

    During the Days of Awe, we are tasked with asking our friends and loved ones to forgive us for any sins we have committed against them whether intentionally or non-intentionally. It is a humbling experience and a way to enter the New Ear truly cleansed.

    Informative comment

    I am a Christian, but I never have (nor never will) understand the hatred towards the Jewish community. My Lord & Savior was Jewish. I don't know the proper term, but Happy Yom Kippur. May GOD bless and forgive us all.

    Yom Kippur

    There isn't a Jewish house of worship near me or even a large Jewish population. I study the holiday in the old testament.


    yom kippur is a time to ask for forgiveness but it is also a time to remember our loved ones, we have a yiskor service so we can pray for the souls of our loved ones

    Observing shabbat worship or the holidays.

    Joanne, I just came across this web page. If you are interested in worshipping shabbat or the holidays, you can either see the service streamed on your computer @ "centralsynagogue dot org" or if you have Directv on channel 388 JBS (Jewish Broadcating Station). I hope this may help you to feel included in the greater Jewish community. It is a reform congregation in NYC, & very inclusive with a great clergy. L'Shanah Tovah, I wish you a great New Year & an easy fast.

    Yom Kippur

    I'm not Jewish, but find the article very informative, and it touches my Christian roots.