Tu BiShvat — The New Year for trees

·3 min read
The Alliance for Cape Fear Trees partners with volunteers for tree plantings, including some Extension Master Gardeners.
The Alliance for Cape Fear Trees partners with volunteers for tree plantings, including some Extension Master Gardeners.

In 2022, Tu BiShvat or the "birthday of the trees" begins at sundown on Sunday, Jan. 16 and ends at sundown on Monday, Jan. 17. A Jewish holiday, the name is Hebrew for the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat.

In ancient times, Tu BiShvat was merely a date on the calendar that helped Jewish farmers establish exactly when they should bring their produce of fruit from recently planted trees to the Temple as first-fruit offerings. Tu BiShvat later grew to be an opportunity for Jewish people to celebrate their tree-planting efforts to restore the ecology of ancient Israel and symbolic of renewed growth and flowering of the people returning to their ancestral homeland.

In the 16th century, the Kabbalists (mystics) in the Land of Israel created a new ritual to celebrate Tu BiShvat called the Feast of Fruits. Modeled on the Passover seder, participants would read selections from the Hebrew Bible and Rabbinic literature and would eat local fruits and nuts traditionally: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. Participants in the kabbalistic seder would also drink four cups of wine: white wine (to symbolize winter), white with some red (a harbinger of the coming of spring); red with some white (early spring) and finally all red (spring and summer).

In modern times, Tu BiShvat continues to be an opportunity for planting trees — in Israel and elsewhere, wherever Jewish people live. Here in Wilmington to celebrate, the Alliance for Cape Fear Trees is facilitating a ceremonial planting of trees on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 4 p.m. at Wallace Park near the bridge where Metts Avenue crosses. Anyone is invited to be present while a Rabbi shares the meaning of the festival and children from the synagogue plant trees.

As mentioned in https://www.myjewishlearning.com/, “For environmentalists, Tu BiShvat is an ancient and authentic Jewish connection to contemporary ecological issues. The holiday is viewed as an appropriate occasion to educate Jewish people about their tradition’s advocacy of responsible stewardship of God’s creation, manifested in ecological activism. Tu BiShvat is an opportunity to raise awareness about and to care for the environment through the teaching of Jewish sources celebrating nature. It is also a day to focus on the environmental sensitivity of the Jewish tradition by planting trees wherever Jews may live.”

“The Tu BiShvatt seder has increased in popularity in recent years. Celebrated as a congregational event, the modern Tu BiShvat seder is multi-purpose. While retaining some kabbalistic elements – and still very much a ritual that connects participant to the land of Israel – the seder today is often imbued with an ecological message as well.”

As a self-proclaimed lover of trees, I propose that we all adopt this time as the New Year for Trees and a reconnection with our environment. Winter is a perfect time to plant trees in our coastal North Carolina area, and there are plenty of tree planting and giveaway opportunities in need of volunteers. The Alliance for Cape Fear Trees does a great job of partnering, providing and planting trees to help restore our valuable tree canopy which has been desecrated by storms and development.

Two upcoming giveaways, sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation, Verizon, and SageSure Insurance, will be held at Legion Stadium on Saturdays, Feb. 26 and March 12, 9 a.m. to noon. Several area tree planting events are scheduled as well; please visit https://www.allianceforcapefeartrees.com/ for volunteer opportunities and more information.

Let’s kickoff our new year with a celebration of trees and connection to nature!

Lloyd Singleton
Lloyd Singleton

Lloyd Singleton is the director of the N.C. Cooperative Extension – New Hanover County and Arboretum. The grounds of the Arboretum are free and open daily from 8 a.m.– 5 p.m., located at 6206 Oleander Drive in Wilmington.

This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: Tu BiShvat, a Jewish holiday is known as the "birthday of the trees"

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