Chol Hamoed (that’s three syllables: Ha-mo-ed) refers to the intermediate days, sandwiched between the opening and closing days of either Passover or Sukkot. Not quite holidays but not weekdays either, Chol Hamoed is a time that blends festive atmosphere with daily routine. Read on for 11 facts about these twice-yearly periods in the Jewish calendar.

1. It Means “Mundane of the Holiday”

“Chol Hamoed” is Hebrew for “mundane of the holiday,” highlighting the semi-sacred status of these intermediate days. While the opening and closing days of Passover and Sukkot are full-fledged holidays (quite literally: holy days), the days in between retain a lesser measure of sanctity. This unique blend is manifest in the various laws and practices of Chol Hamoed, as described below.

Read: Chol Hamoed: The Intermediate Festival Days

2. Passover Has Four; Sukkot Has Five

Of Passover’s eight days, the first and last two days are full-fledged holidays, while the four middle days (17–20 Nissan) are “Chol Hamoed Pesach.” Similarly, Sukkot begins with a two-day holiday and concludes with the double holiday of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. The five days in between (17–21 Tishrei) are “Chol Hamoed Sukkot.”

Read: What Is Passover; What Is Sukkot

3. In Israel, Add One

In Israel, Passover is seven days instead of eight, and Sukkot through Simchat Torah is eight days instead of nine. However, only one day at the beginning and end of each festival is a complete holiday, unlike the Diaspora’s two. This leaves Israelis with five Passover Chol Hamoed days (16–20 Nissan) and six Sukkot ones (16–21 Tishrei).

Read: Why Do We Celebrate Holidays for Two Days in the Diaspora?

4. Some Types of Work Are Forbidden

Defining a day as both holy and mundane requires a careful balancing act. Unlike Shabbat and the holidays when creative work is forbidden, only certain activities are prohibited on Chol Hamoed. Thus, driving a car and using electricity is permitted, while going to work, doing laundry, and writing is subject to certain limitations.1 (Of course, if there is a Shabbat during Chol Hamoed, all types of work are forbidden.)

Read: Why No Work on Chol Hamoed?

5. The Holiday Mitzvahs Remain in Effect

Don’t forget to keep the special holiday practices during Chol Hamoed as well. On Passover, eat matzah and refrain from consuming or owning chametz (leaven), and on Sukkot, eat meals in the sukkah and shake the lulav and etrog.

Read: 14 Chametz Facts Every Jew Should Know

6. They Are Days of Joy

It’s a mitzvah to rejoice on Chol Hamoed just like on the holidays themselves.2 In practical terms, this means that it is recommended to partake of a bread-based meal3 and drink some wine4 each day of Chol Hamoed. It is also customary to dress up.5

Read: Rejoicing on the Holidays

7. It’s Perfect for Family Time

Many families find Chol Hamoed to be the perfect time for enjoyable and memorable family outings. Take your kids to a park, museum, or zoo,6 and if there is a sizable Jewish community nearby, chances are that many like-minded people will be doing the same. Don’t forget to bring along some kosher snacks—and on Passover, chametz-free ones.

8. There Are Special Prayers and Torah Readings

Chol Hamoed prayers come with some added perks, such as the festive Hallel prayer (with just "half Hallel" being said on Passover), a holiday-themed Torah reading, and the Musaf prayer. On Sukkot, the lulav and etrog are waved during Hallel, and held when encircling the bimah during Hoshanot.

Read: What Is Hallel?

9. It Often Includes Shabbat

Often, one of the days of Chol Hamoed is Shabbat. Shabbat Chol Hamoed has an added layer of festivity, fusing Chol Hamoed celebration with Shabbat relaxation. In the morning prayer services, the weekly Torah reading cycle is suspended, and a selection related to the holiday is read instead.

Read: 13 Special Shabbats on the Jewish Calendar

10. Many Don’t Wear Tefillin

While Jewish males put on tefillin every day, on Shabbat and holidays the prayers are said without these sacred vestments.7 The status of Chol Hamoed in this regard is a matter of halachic debate.8 In practice, Sephardim, Chassidic Jews, and certain non-Chassidic segments of Ashkenazi Jewry do not wear tefillin on Chol Hamoed, while other Ashkenazim do.

Read: Do I Put on Tefillin During Chol Hamoed?

11. Less Work = More Torah Study

One of the reasons work is restricted on Chol Hamoed is to give us more time to study Torah.9 Torah is more than a handbook of Jewish law; it is our source of life. So with work on hiatus, make sure to pick up a Torah book and enrich your knowledge of our eternal heritage.

Read: The Torah Is…