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NEW YEAR OF THE TREES
What is Tu Bishvat and when do we celebrate it?
Tu Bishvat literally means the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat. It is called the New Year of the trees, because it is about that time that most trees in Israel begin to bud. The winter has just passed and the sap is beginning to fill the trees with the promise of spring.
There is no mention of Tu Bishvat in the Bible and so it is a minor holiday.
Tu Bishvat is a festival that shows the link between the Jewish people and the land of Israel.
The main customs and traditions linked to Tu Bishvat were developed in Israel in ancient times. The Jews took these customs and traditions with them when they went into exile.
On Tu Bishvat Jews would put fruits on their tables - fruits for which the land of Israel is legendary: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and honey. These are known as the seven species. The sweet fruits helped to take away some of the memories of the bitter life experienced during exile. They also reminded the Jewish people that Israel was waiting for them.
These days, Tu Bishvat is not only a day when fruits are tasted, but also a day when trees are planted, as it is said in the bible,(Vayikra 19:23),
"And when you shall enter this land, you shall plant fruit-bearing trees".
How do we celebrate Tu Bishvat?
Today we celebrate Tu Bishvat by eating fruit and planting trees.
A very important custom of this festival is to eat fruits for which Israel is known. These are called the seven species and include wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and honey. We also eat other fruits that are associated with Israel, in particular almonds, citrus fruits and apples.
In Israel, Tu Bishvat comes at the beginning of spring. The sun shines and the sky is clear blue. Children take shovels and hoes, and singing happily, they go to different places and plant trees. They have parties when they have finished, where they sing songs, eat fruit and dance around trees. In the Diaspora (anywhere outside of Israel) Jews either pay someone to plant a tree for them in Israel or plant their own trees at home.