Tu B'Shvat. Tu B'Shvat is the 15th of the Hebrew month Shvat, and is known as the "New Year for Fruit of the Trees". This is one of those Jewish holidays with its pagan roots clearly showing. Any agricultural holiday has pagan roots, and this is no exception.
I love this holiday! Not only is it "the birthday of the trees", but it is one of the two Jewish holidays with a seder meal (the other being Pesach, or Passover)!
In the 16th century, the Kabbalists of Tzfat compiled a Tu B'Shvat seder, somewhat similar to the seder for Passover. It involves enjoying the fruits of the tree, particularly those native to the Land of Israel, and discusses philosophical and Kabbalistic concepts associated with the day. Among other things, the seder is a great way to appreciate the bounty that we so often take for granted, and to develop a good and generous eye for the world around us.
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Trees are entwined not only in pagan traditions, but Jewish ones as well. In the pre-temple days, early Jews worshipped Asherah, a goddess who was represented by a post or tree.
Many Jewish parents continue the tree connection by planting a tree (cedar for boys, cypress for girls) to commemorate their child's birth on the Tu B'Shvat after their child was born.
Additionally, when a Jewish couple gets married, two trees come together as one chuppah under which the couple takes their vows.
These are just a couple of the tangible ways to draw the connection between human beings and trees, both physically and spiritually. As a Witch, I often meditate on the tree as a way to connect with both earth (grounding) and space (the cosmos). I extend roots into the earth and energetic "branches" into space. In this way, I am the middle pillar, the cosmic tree that connects the worlds.
A prayer is said as part of the ritual meal, which is:
Praise to Adonai, who is Lord and ruler over all, for creating the fruit of the trees.
Praise to Adonai, who is Lord and ruler over all, for keeping us well to reach this season.
If you are interested in sharing this holiday with children, here is a link to some Tu B'Shvat coloring pages, and here are some craft ideas. Here is a whole mini site for Tu B'Shvat with kids.