Tu B’Shevat

When is Tu B’Shevat?

Tu B’Shevat is a Jewish holiday that is known as the “New Year for Trees”. Its name translates to the 15th day of the month Shevat. This holiday celebrates both new beginnings, as well as an appreciation for the natural bounty within the Holy Land. Since Tu B’Shevat is based on the Jewish calendar, the date varies year-to-year.

A Celebration of Natural Bounty

In Judaism, there are different types of new years’ celebrations based on scripture. Tu B’Shevat is a celebration of the life of trees, specifically ones that are native to the Holy Land of Israel. While the holiday isn’t specifically outlined in the Torah compared with other holidays, it is still one of great importance within the Jewish community.

There are few holidays that celebrate items derived naturally from the earth that are used for human sustenance. Without plant items, humans would not be able to survive. This is just one of the reasons why Tu B’Shevat is so sacred. Judaism celebrates seven specific fruits mentioned in the Torah. Also called “shivat haminim,” the following native plants are considered sacred on Tu B’Shevat:

  • grapes
  • pomegranates
  • dates
  • olives
  • figs
  • wheat
  • barley

Types of Celebrations

Tu B’Shevat is different from other celebrations of new beginnings, such as the Rosh Hashanah New Year. Celebrations in the Holy Land can consist of planting new trees. Tu B’Shevat also marks the time in which trees planted during previous years come to fruition. Certain years are considered sacred while the tree matures, so people cannot eat the fruit. Most fruits may be eaten after five years of the initial planting.

Due to the extent of Judaism, not all people can celebrate Tu B’Shevat in Israel. Still, the holiday is celebrated in all parts of the world with different customs. Depending on the region, some of the same trees are planted as in the Holy Land, following the same rules for harvest. Other trees may also be harvested. If there is a newborn in the family, certain trees might be planted as way of celebrating the special occasion. Traditionally, cedar trees are planted for boys, while pine trees are planted for girls.

Other celebrators may instead eat from the shivat haminim. Tu B’Shevat is also an opportunity to try a new fruit to commemorate the new year of the trees.

Considerations

While Tu B’Shevat always occurs on the 15th of Shevat, the date varies based on the Gregorian calendar that we recognize today. The holiday occurs on varying dates during the months of January and February. In 2014, Tu B’Shevat occurs on January 16th, while it falls on February 4th in 2015.

Tu B’Shevat may center on trees and the bounty of harvests, but it should not be mistaken with other holidays. Arbor Day is sometimes confused as being the same as this sacred Jewish holiday. Unlike Tu B’Shevat, however, Arbor Day is dedicated to planting trees for environmental and community reasons, and not as a sacred tradition. Furthermore, this holiday is centered on specific trees indigenous to the Holy Land, rather than plants grown in communities outside of this region.



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