Are you ready for a healthy, fun celebration? From sunset tonight (Friday, January 25, 2013) to sunset tomorrow, we observe the minor Jewish holiday known as Tu B’Shvat, which translated means the 15th day of the Hebrew calendar month of Shvat. It’s not really a Biblical holiday, in that it isn’t one of the commanded Seven Feasts of Israel, but we trace its celebration back to the Bible.
Leviticus 19:23-25 says, “When you enter the land and plant any tree for food, you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden for you, not to be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit shall be set aside for jubilation before the LORD; and only in the fifth year may you use its fruit–that its yield to you may be increased: I the LORD am your God.” (New JPS Translation)
In order to keep track of how old each tree is, to know whether or not its fruit could be eaten, the Jewish people picked a date–Tu B’Shvat–as the birthday of the trees. On this day, all trees in Israel are considered another year older.
This day is especially fun for children, as we take the opportunity to remember the providence of God, where our food comes from, how important it is to take care of our earth, and sample a variety of healthy grains and fruits.
Ten Ways to Celebrate
- Eat the “Seven Species”–the seven kinds of food for which God praised the land of Israel in Deuteronomy 8:8. These are: wheat, barley, vines (grapes), figs, pomegranates, olive oil (or olives) and honey (date honey or dates).
- Eat a new fruit or one that you haven’t yet eaten this year. Some people save their etrog from Sukkot and eat it on Tu B’Shvat.
- Eat almonds. The first trees to blossom in the spring in Israel are almond trees, so they are called the “watchers,” as they are the ones to watch to see if spring is close.
- Decorate trees in and around your home. Bonus for using natural decorations, like popcorn strings which feed the birds.
- Make nature crafts and decorations out of natural materials, like acorns, fall leaves and pretty branches.
- Take a nature walk. See how many trees you can identify. See 24 Nature Activities for Kids at Disney’s Family Fun online
- Donate a tree in Israel for $18 per tree through the Jewish National Fund–and be entered for a chance to win a trip for two to the Holy Land!
- Donate a tree in the USA or other locations worldwide (you choose where) for $1 per tree through Plant It 2020.
- Plant seeds in recycled cans or paper cups (Remember, paper is made from trees!) and watch your plants grow indoors until the weather warms up. Then transfer them to the ground. Or plant herbs to keep in your kitchen year-round.
- Pick up trash around your neighborhood or a local park, and save the planet one block at a time. Remember, this activity needs to be supervised by an adult. Kids should wear gloves, know what not to touch and stay far away from traffic.
Jewish or not, we all share this planet. Tu B’Shvat gives us an opportunity to come together to celebrate our beautiful and plentiful world as we celebrate the birthday of the trees!