In the Gregorian calendar “world,” there is only one New Year—January 1. In the Jewish calendar, we have four, with one of them being the New Year of Fruit Trees. Tu B’shevat, (also spelled Tu Bishvat) joins Rosh HaShanah as a “new year.” It takes place on the 15th of the Jewish month of Shevat, which usually lands in mid to late January. In 5781/2021, the holiday falls on January 28.
Why fruit trees and not evergreens?
According to the MyJewishLearning online article (see below for link):
In ancient times, it was merely a date on the calendar that helped Jewish farmers establish exactly when they should bring their fourth-year produce of fruit from recently planted trees to the Temple as first-fruit offerings. After this, all subsequent fruit produced from these trees could be eaten or sold as desired.
The article goes on to note that even after the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, this minor holiday continued to be part of Jewish tradition.
Today, Tu B’shevat is a symbol of the importance of environmentalism and the need to protect our ecosystem. Over the years, a ritual developed and remains today – a Tu B‘shevat seder. Similar to a Passover seder, participants eat symbolic foods, such as different kinds of nuts and fruits grown in the Land of Israel, during a ceremony complete with special readings.
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