Tu Bishvat is a Jewish celebration that originated in ancient times and is seeing a cultural resurgence because of its environmental focus. It's the New Year for Trees, celebrated on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat. This year, that date falls on Jan. 21.
It seems the holiday began as a way to create a date for defining the age of a tree so the Israelites would know when to give a tree's fruits as an offering and when they could eat the fruit, as directed in Leviticus 19:23-25.
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.
According to Judaism 101, Tu Bishvat is like a tree's birthday. It's considered to have aged one year on that holiday. If a tree was planted the day before Tu Bishvat, it turned one the following day. If was planted the day after Tu Bishvat, it needed to wait 364 days to become a year old.
In modern times, the celebration's focus has become ecological, and those who celebrate use the holiday to remember their connection to the Earth as well as their role in protecting it. They celebrate by planting trees, discussing environmental issues, and eating fruits, nuts and wine native to Israel.
Lift a glass
"The reason we are celebrating Tu Bishvat with our customers and partners this year is because it is very easy to see the resonance of how everything that we do to create our wines and bring them to our customers in the U.S. begins with a deep reference for the land itself that we farm to give life and health to the vines, and then the wine, too," said Anne Marie Malkovich-Girard, vice president of sales of Yarden Wines.
"We enjoy and always like to point to this attitude of abundance that we celebrate because we are thankful for the vines, the wines, our good business and all the partners and customers that we share the products with. And then they, in turn, share with us their families and lifestyles."
Yarden is one of the leading organic winegrowers in Israel.
"We recently received the LODI RULES certificate for sustainability," said Malkovich-Girard. Yarden is the first international winery to have received this certification, which has its roots in Lodi, California.
"This was a milestone in our efforts to farm more sustainably in the framework of our constant holistic search to increase wine quality now and in the future," said head winemaker Victor Schoenfield. "We very much see ourselves as caretakers of a very special spot on the planet. We hope to acts a model foremothers in the Israeli wine industry in oder to promote sustainability in our industry as a whole."
Celebrate in your own way
You don't have to live in Israel or be Jewish to honor the trees on Tu Bishvat. Malkovich-Girard commented that the holiday is "like the original Earth Day." So anything you'd do to celebrate Earth Day is fair game for celebrating Tu Bishvat, as long as it's the right season for it. It may be hard to plant a tree or a garden for many regions in January, but here are a few ideas to celebrate.
- Pick up litter at a park, beach or a hiking trail.
- Eat meat-free for the day.
- Walk or ride your bike instead of using your car.
- Take nothing disposable for the day. Make sure to use reusable bags, water bottles and coffee mugs.
- Take a super short shower (or skip bathing altogether for the day).
And here are two specific ways to celebrate in a more traditional Jewish way.
- Host a Tu Bishvat sedar, a meal that's inspired by a Passover seder.
- Have a meal that includes the seven species mentioned in the Torah (Deuteronomy 8:8) — wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olive (or olive oil) and dates (or honey).