After the whirlwind of the December holiday season and the secular New Year, things may currently feel more slow or gloomy, but we actually have a meaningful though often overlooked Jewish holiday coming up: Tu BiShvat!
Also known as the New Year of the Trees (or in Hebrew Rosh Hashanah La’illanot), it lasts this year from sundown on Sunday, January 16, until sundown the following day.
What is Tu BiShvat?
Tu BiShvat is a minor festival that takes place on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, with the name itself referring to the date. It originates in the Mishnah (the first part of the Talmud, also known as the Oral Torah) and was an agricultural holiday in the Biblical Land of Israel.
Many communities celebrate it today by honoring the Earth, planting trees, and eating the Seven Species of Israel (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates) along with other fruits and nuts.
In Israel, Tu BiShvat is commonly a day for planting trees and celebrating nature.
This year, planting trees in Israel is particularly important, as many trees have perished in devastating forest fires in the summer of 2021. Judaica WebStore is partnering with the Jewish National Fund and donating a portion of our profits to rehabilitating Israel’s forests between now and the end of Tu BiShvat (January 17).
The New Year of the Trees
In Biblical times, Tu BiShvat marked a point between growing seasons and the start of a new agricultural year. It was used as a sort of “birthday” for all the trees in the Land of Israel in order to keep track of their age, which was important for calculating fruit bearing cycles as well as keeping track of contributing crops to the Temple and to the poor.
Today, the idea of a tree’s “birthday” is less important from a practical standpoint, but the holiday’s strong association with trees remains. Modern Jewish communities connect with the “New Year of the Trees” by planting trees around this time, particularly in the Land of Israel, and also often extend the theme of the holiday to honoring all nature. It’s common to use Tu BiShvat as an opportunity to participate in, donate to, and spread awareness of environmental causes and to honor the Earth.
The Seven Species
Another modern custom that has emerged around the holiday of Tu BiShvat is the eating of special foods representing nature’s bounty and the Land of Israel, particularly fresh and dried fruit, nuts, and the Biblical Seven Species of Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives (or olive oil), and dates (or date honey).
Some people even hold a Seder, a special ritual meal, involving the Seven Species. Other commonly eaten foods include apples, carob, almonds, and dried fruit like apricots and raisins.
You can read more about the Seven Species and what they represent here!
- Indulge in some of the best the Land of Israel has to offer this Tu BiShvat season with our kosher gift baskets and wines made out of grapes, pomegranates, and other fruit!
Tu BiShvat Jewish Art
While Tu BiShvat doesn’t have any special required Judaica, many Jewish artists and designers incorporate colorful motifs featuring trees, nature, or one or more of the Seven Species into wonderful Tu BiShvat-themed items that can be used for the holiday itself, or any time of year whenever one wants to connect with Israel’s nature.
While it may not hold the same exact significance as it did in the past, we’re thankful that Tu BiShvat still remains such a special date in the Jewish calendar. It’s a wonderful opportunity to recognize the life-giving beauty of our planet and celebrate the incredible gifts that trees give us each and every year! On behalf of Judaica WebStore and all of Israel, we wish our readers (and the trees, of course!) a wonderful Chag Sameach!
Celebrate the New Year of the Trees and help replant Israel’s forests with our Tu BiShvat gifts from the Land of Israel! And don’t forget to check out our top 12 favorites to get some shopping inspiration.