What is Tu B’Shevat? The New Year for Trees

Tu B’Shevat is the 15th of the Jew­ish month of She­vat — Tu is the He­brew num­ber for 15. The hol­i­day is com­mon­ly known as the ‘New Year for Trees.’ This year  it was cel­e­brat­ed on Mon­day, Jan­u­ary 25, 2016; the date varies each year. In this sea­son, trees in their ear­ly bloom­ing days be­gin their fruit-bear­ing cy­cle in the Land of Is­rael and emerge from their win­ter sleep.

Tu B’Shevat serves a spe­cif­ic pur­pose of mark­ing the new year for cal­cu­lat­ing the age of trees for tithing. This is ref­er­ence to Leviti­cus 19:23–25:

23 “‘When you en­ter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, re­gard its fruit as for­bid­den.a]">[a] For three years you are to con­sid­er it for­bid­denb]">[b]; it must not be eat­en. 24 In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an of­fer­ing of praise to the Lord. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your har­vest will be in­creased. I am the Lord your God.”

Ac­cord­ing to the pas­sage, fruit is not to be eat­en from fruit trees in its first three years. Nor in the fourth year, which is holy and re­served for God. In the fifth year, the fruit from the trees can be eat­en. Each year is marked by the pass­ing of the Tu B’Shevat.

The hol­i­day is cel­e­brat­ed by eat­ing fruit. Jews par­tic­u­lar­ly seek to eat fruits that have been men­tioned in the Torah in its praise of the boun­ty of the Holy Land. They eat from the Sev­en Species (shi­v­at hamin­im) which in­clude wheat, bar­ley, grapes (vines), figs, pome­gran­ates, olives and dates. Some Jews al­so plant new trees on Tu B’Shevat.