Yahrzeit is a long-running Jewish tradition of honoring the death of a love one on the yearly anniversary (according to the Jewish calendar) of death for what is usually a full day. The Jewish calendar deviates from the English calendar, and it’s critically important, for tradition’s sake, to get that date correct. This is quickly accomplished with a yahrzeit calendar. The major caveat between the two calendar types is that during leap year, the Jewish Calendar adds one month.
Yahrzeit observance gives the grieving family a chance to reflect and mourn, but also an opportunity to celebrate and honor the memory of the person they loved. Sitting Shiva immediately after a loved one’s passing does not afford this opportunity.
As with many orthodox Jewish traditions, there are several rules to abide to ensure observance is considered proper. For starters, you are not to consume meat or wine during Yahrzeit. Also, it is expected that a traditional Yahrzeit candle should be lit during this observance, as it is believed to represent the soul of the loved one who was lost. Burning a candle for a period of twenty-four hours starting on the eve of the anniversary of the death of the person being observed is also tradition.
It is also customary that each person in observance say the Mourner’s Kaddish during the Yahrzeit. Most people visit the gravesite of the person being observed during Yahrzeit as long as it is reasonable to do so at that particular time. It is highly preferred that family members in mourning will read, pray and speak at the yahrzeit cemetery visit rather than calling on a rabbi to speak.
This custom continues to take place every year on the anniversary of the person’s passing.