What is the Festival of Trees All About?
Tu Bishvat is a holiday that is sometimes called the New Year for Trees. It comes at the very beginning of spring, when the rains are plentiful and the trees blossom in Israel (though in some parts of America there’s still snow on the ground at this “springtime” celebration). The words “Tu Bishvat” literally mean the 15th of the month of Shvat.
Today, many people mark this holiday by planting saplings and participating in a meal that evokes the Passover seder, where fruits, nuts, and wine or grape juice are on the menu.
It was mystics in the Middle Ages who first developed this Tu Bishvat seder in which four cups of wine were drunk, and seven “fruits” (also known as the “seven species”) were eaten. In the late 19th century the Tu Bishvat seder was revived by Zionists who used it to express their connection to the Land of Israel. The seder is now a popular Tu Bishvat activity particularly among Jewish environmental groups and nature enthusiasts.
Besides the seder, many families spend Tu Bishvat planting a tree, working in a garden, eating special fruit, or doing something else to show some love for trees and the earth.