Hey, everyone. Are you guys having a good Yom Kippur? Wait… You don't know about Yom Kippur? The Jewish day of atonement? Let this ignorant Jew try to explain without even using Wikipedia.
[Full disclosure: While my Mom is Jewish, I have never once celebrated Yom Kippur. I deal with my sins like any good agnostic: by crumpling them up and sticking them on the big black tar ball where my heart should be, and also by counting on science to advance to the point where humans live forever, so we won't have to worry about our sins coming back to bite us in the ass after we die.]
There's a lot of misinformation out there about Yom Kippur, even in the Jewish community. Some Jews will tell you Yom Kippur is one of the most sacred days of the year, but they say that about everything. Some Jews might tell you Yom Kippur was an Israeli pop star in the 70s known for his moustache that curved up on one end and down on the other. Other Jews might tell you to mind your own beeswax, because how would you like someone coming up to you on the street and asking you to explain your weird holidays? All of these things are true—some more than others.
The key thing you need to know about Yom Kippur is that Jews all over the world are fasting today; they can't put anything but water in their bodies from sundown the day before Yom Kippur to sundown the day of. (For some fucked up reason, the Jewish day starts and ends at sunset. Scholars say this may have been an ancient prank played by the original Tribes of Israel who knew later Jews would always be confused as to what calendar day their holidays begin on.) If you see people randomly passing out on the sidewalk in a malnourished state, you know it's Yom Kippur. (Or Fashion Week.) Some Jews will cheat and sneak some juice or crackers during the day. This doesn't really matter because Jews don't believe in Hell or a vengeful God, so what's the worst that could happen?
The reason Jews do this is because they enjoy complaining on Twitter about how they can't eat for a whole 24 hours. Also, ostensibly, to reflect on the year past and atone for the sins committed during this year. Why you can't do this on a full stomach is one of those Jewish mysteries Madonna used to be so fond of.
Sometime before sundown on Yom Kippur (right about now, actually) Jews will put down their smartphones, stop complaining on Twitter and go to Temple. (Not to be confused with a level in Halo 3, "Temple" is what Jews call their church.) Very observant Jews will go to two or more Temples, running back-and-forth between them in 15 minute intervals. The Torah tells us that when these Jews die their ghosts get special powers, like telekinesis.
Something happens at Temple. [I've only been to Temple once, when I was very young, but I imagine it involves chanting and dipping babies in milk, and coming up with new Yiddish terms to confuse non-Jews. -Ed]
After temple, Jews prepare a large feast of baconless-BLTs. (Jews can't eat bacon.) They break their fast, eating and drinking a lot. In their drunken state, they commit new sins to take the place of those they had just atoned for—sins which, lying in their beds that evening, thinking about how weird it is that according to their calendar it's tomorrow morning, the Jews will not reflect upon, seeing as how it's only 364 short days until the next Yom Kippur, the next day of Jewish atonement.
[Picture of Maurycy Gottlieb's ‘Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur' from Wikipedia