For the Adults
Judaism has 4 "New Years" on which calculations for various purposes take effect. The most well-known New Year is Rosh Hashanah, the new year for the judment of mankind. Tu B'Shevat is considered the New Year for the trees. The reason to have a New Year for the trees was to calculate the tithes that needed to be separated. For example, if the tithe from that year was to be given to the poor, the year was calculated from Tu B'Shevat of that year until the Tu B'shevat of the next year.
This date was chosen because this is when the fruit of the trees in Israel begins to ripen and becomes visible on the branch. In Israel, most of the annual rain has already fallen and the soil is hopefully saturated with water and able to support growing trees. Tu B'Shevat is considered a festive holiday outside of Israel too, because it connects people to the land of Israel, its soil, and the verse:
"A land of wheat and barley, vines (grapes), figs, and pomegranates, a land of olives and honey (from dates)" (Deuteronomy 8:8)
For Families and Children:
Some activities to do on Tu B'shevat include:
1) It is customary to say a blessing and eat fruit mentioned in the above verse, or fruit grown in Israel, or anything that grows on trees (fruits, dried fruit, nuts, and carob).
For a full list of the different types of fruits, click here.
Baruch Ata Adonai, Eloheynu Melekh haolam, boray pri haetz.
Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, Ruler of the Universe who creates the fruit of the tree.
It is also a great time of year to try a new fruit.
If this is your first time eating the food this season, you can also say:
Baruch ata Adonai, Elohenu melech ha-olamshe-hecheyanu, ve-kiyemanu, ve-higiyanu la-zeman ha-zeh.
Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has kept us alive, and has preserved us, and enabled us to reach this season.
2) Art and crafts projects about trees. Click here for some cute crafty ideas. This website has some great coloring pages plus some online games. There is also a word find game for older children.
3) Planting a tree (or having someone plan one on your behalf ) or planting seeds at home. You can buy seeds at your local nursery or buy a ready-made home garden.
4) Singing songs about trees [click here (pdf) or here (audio songs)]
5) Visiting your local botanical gardens, farmer's market, U-Pick farm, or even the fruit section of your grocery store. Try to spot things that grow on trees.
6) Bake something that has fruit or nuts in it. I love this date-nut bread.
Have fun. I hope you enjoy these ideas!
Beyond the Table is a new series on this blog that will showcase the many ways in which kids of all ages can hang out and help out in the kitchen. Going Beyond Prenatals is not just about eating healthy during pregnancy, but about going beyond pregnancy to think about pediatric nutrition as well. Creating positive kitchen interactions beyond the table encourages healthy eating and good memories. You benefit too, by always having an activity on hand! To read more, click here.