This year (2015), Tu B’Shevat falls on February 4 (starting in the evening of February 3). It is one of the more minor of the Jewish festivals, but one of the most fun to celebrate! I made a delicious fruit platter for us to enjoy – read on to see why!
Tu B’Shevat (which literally means 15 Shevat – the Hebrew date of the festival) is the New Year for Trees. Yes, you read that right, the trees apparently have their own New Year, and deserve their own celebration. Any excuse for a party, right?
As a child, I remember marking the day by planting trees – both here in the UK, with a spade and a watering can and so on, and in Israel, by sending money to Keren Kayemeth L’Israel (KKL, aka the Jewish National Fund) who would plant trees there on your behalf. Years later I worked for KKL in Israel, and spent months in the forests, tending the trees, building paths, laying irrigation, and teaching young visitors about the importance of protecting our natural environment.
Historically, Tu B’Shevat has not been a big deal. According to Wikipedia, people first began to mark the day by eating fruits in the Middle Ages. By the 16th Century, this tradition had expanded and Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed and his disciples created a Tu B’Shevat seder – a structured festive meal/service – that celebrated the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. The meal ended with a prayer which includes the following:
“May all the sparks scattered by our hands, or by the hands of our ancestors, or by the sin of the first human against the fruit of the tree, be returned and included in the majestic might of the Tree of Life. Then the trees of the forest will sing out and the tree of the field will raise a branch and make fruit, day by day.” (Read the full text here.)
Rabbi Luria also started the tradition of eating 15 fruits on Tu B’Shevat. As a child, we always had to make up the number with some dried fruits and nuts, but these days the shops are filled with an immense range of fruits, so finding 15 was no problem at all. Try to make sure that all your fruits grew on trees though – e.g. melons, which grow on the ground, don’t count.
The fruit platter included the following fruit selection (in no particular order):
We could also have had oranges, dates, mangoes, nectarines, passion fruit, grapefruit, persimmon, and probably a load more. What a choice! Kipper also pointed out that OLIVES would count, as they grow on trees too. Joy!
The hebrew blessing to say before eating tree-grown fruit is as follows:
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam, borei pri ha-eitz.
Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.
Many people also have the tradition of eating at least one fruit which has not yet been eaten this season. This enables them to also make the Shehecheyanu blessing, which is:
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam, Shehecheyanu Vekiyimanu Vehigianu Lazman Hazeh.
Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.
I thought the fruit platter was a lovely way to show off all the wonderful types of fruit, and allow everyone to help themselves to the different sorts. You could also make fruit skewers, a big fruit salad, or even a 15-fruit smoothie!
You may also like my fruity ‘tree’ challah recipe.
And if you need more inspiration, take a look at my Tu B’Shevat Pinterest board. Or subscribe to get deliciously easy, family-friendly recipes and articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox. (I’ll never pass on your email address to anyone.)
However you choose to celebrate the New Year for Trees, I hope you have a very happy Tu B’Shevat!