Global Holidays at Home: Planting Trees on Tu B’shevat

Celebrate the Earth and all of its bounty on Tu B’shevat (January 30-31, 2018), a Jewish holiday between mid-January and mid-February that is the traditional “new year for trees.” And how does one celebrate a tree’s new year? By planting trees, of course!

Ancient Jewish Holidays Made Modern

Anyone who is at least minimally familiar with the Jewish Torah or the Christian Old Testament will know that Jewish people have a nearly endless cycle of feasts, fasts, festivals, and holidays throughout the year. Not all of them are still celebrated, and many are too somber to even be called celebrations, but Tu B’shevat is a good one for anyone to join in and learn what Jewish holidays are all about.

According to Jewish tradition, in the first four years of a tree’s life, one-tenth of its fruit should be given as an offering to God. The fruit helped support the priestly class as well as the poor. Originally, Tu B’shevat was meant to help calculate the age of fruit-bearing trees in order to give these Biblical tithes and ensure prosperity. Today, it's most commonly celebrated as an ecological awareness day celebrated by planting trees.

For little ones who don't quite grasp the historical context of this celebration, books can help. Thank You, Trees!, co-written by Gail Langer Karwoski and Marilyn Gootman, celebrates the beauty of this holiday in a sweet, rhyming story that gives thanks for the gifts that trees provide. With vibrant and colorful illustrations by Kristen Balouch, this board book is a great way to get toddlers excited about Tu B'shevat and instill a sense of gratitude in them.

Planting Trees

As a birthday for trees, it’s a good day to plant a new one. Scope out a good spot with your kids in the neighborhood or in your backyard to plant, and pick a tree species. Do you need a good shade tree next to your playground? Want to have a tree swing eventually? Need to replace a tree that’s just died? Go crazy with your tree planting!

You can also take this a little more literally and plant some fruit-bearing trees. It may be a little early to plant a garden outside, but you could start some seeds in a planter indoors. Planting a fruit tree is a great way to show your kids where their food comes from, or to interest them in a food they haven’t tried or don’t currently like.

Be sure to space out your trees in a planter, or use different jars to plant the seeds and watch them grow. You can transplant them outside when springtime comes and the ground is no longer frozen.

Fruits of Your Labor

Even if you haven’t been celebrating Tu B’shevat for four years yet, you can still eat traditional Jewish foods that mark the holiday. They are seven items that the Bible describes as being abundant in the land of Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, olives, pomegranates, and dates. These are all part of the traditional meal where fruits of the Earth are the main star.

Make a nice salad medley for your kids to try, or just eat them individually before you decide what you’re going to plant.

To explore further, add in some other traditional Jewish foods, like falafel and tabouleh to your meal, or just go straight for the Jewish comfort food like cholent, or slow-cooked stew of meat, vegetables, and potatoes. Throw that baby in the crock pot before planting your tree, and it might just be ready by dinnertime.

Planning on celebrating Tu B’shevat this year? What type of tree will you be planting? Share with us!

Tags : celebrations   holidays   holidays from around the world   global citizen   israeli holidays   middle eastern holidays   green holidays