The Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat falls on the 15th day of the month of Shevat. It isn’t a major Jewish holiday, but is still celebrated by many, especially in Israel. It’s also known as the “New Year for Trees,” as the date was chosen to mark the blooming season in Israel.
The day celebrates the season when rain falls strongest in Israel, causing buds to show and fruits to appear. School children often mark the day by planting trees, although this is a relatively new practice. Outside of Israel, Tu B’Shevat is often a celebration of a person’s attachment and connection to nature.
Tu B’Shevat is traditionally celebrated by eating fruit. This practice originates back to the middle ages, when the Tu B’Shevat Seder was developed by Jewish mystics. The Seder involved drinking four cups of wine and eating ten different types of fruit, and the practice quickly spread to other countries with a large Jewish population. While this Seder isn’t as widespread today as it was in the past, it’s still common in Israel.
While all types of fruit is eaten on Tu B’Shevat, particular attention is given to those that are specifically mentioned in the Torah, such as olives, dates and grapes. Fruits and nuts that have an inedible outer shell, such as banana, pineapple and Brazil nut are also eaten. The outer shell should traditionally only be removed once Seder begins.
People in Israel also use the holiday of Tu B’Shevat to consider their place in the world. A relevant Jewish saying is that “man is a tree of the field,” and on Tu B’Shevat Jewish people try to learn lessons from trees and other parts of nature.
The day has always been associated with trees, and by extension nature, so Tu B’Shevat is often used to promote ecological and environmental causes. Many people plant trees, for example, especially in Israel. The trees are often paid for by donations from Jewish people living abroad.
The tradition of planting trees on Tu B’Shevat dates back to 1890, when the Rabbit Ze’ev Yavetz asked his students to plant trees at an agricultural colony. In 1908, this practice became more widespread, and was officially adopted by the Jewish National Fund and Teachers Union. Today, the National Fund organizes large-scale tree planting on Tu B’Shevat in forests, with huge numbers of Jewish people taking part.