We’d like to visit my mother-in-law’s grave on her birthday, but it coincides with the first day of Passover. Is it appropriate to visit her grave on Passover? If we do, should we light a memorial candle?
In Jewish tradition, it is common to visit the graves of loved ones around Jewish holidays, especially before the Jewish new year. We think of our loved ones often, especially at significant moments in our lives such as holidays, lifecycle celebrations, and whenever something occurs that we wish we could share with them. We feel their physical absence keenly in these moments.
According to Jewish custom, it is preferable to visit graves before a holiday, so that on the day of the holiday, we can focus attention on observing or celebrating.
Judaism does not traditionally memorialize the birthday of loved ones who have died; instead, we mark the anniversary of their death, also called their yahrzeit.
With all that in mind, do what feels right for you and your family. You should check beforehand, however, that the cemetery will be open when you plan to visit because many Jewish cemeteries will be closed on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.
Typically, a yahrzeit or memorial candle is not lit at the grave, but rather in mourners’ homes. We light the candle shortly before sundown on the day before the anniversary of the date of death and it burns for 24 hours. We also light a yahrzeit candle on the final day of Passover, Sukkot, and Shavuot. The worship service on the concluding morning of these holidays includes special yizkor memorial prayers that invite worshippers to remember loved ones who have died. Find a congregation near you to attend a yizkor service at the conclusion of Passover, Sukkot, or Shavuot.