Tu Bi-shvat  New Year of the Trees vs. Valentine's Day By: Ilania Abileah

 

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Of Trees & Valentines        (Written January 2014)

observed from sunset of January 15 to Sundown January 16.  It is one of the New Years celebrated in Jewish tradition.  This one is the New Year of the trees or the Jewish “Arbor Day.”

Tu comes from two Hebrew letters "Tet - " and "Vav - " with the respective numeric value of: 9 + 6, meaning the 15th of the month of Shvat.  Actually to reach 15 one could add up the letters "Yod - ” and "He - " which would make into the name of "God" which is not done in Jewish Tradition.  It signifies rebirth and a beginning of springtime.  The almond tree with its connotations of Hope, Love and Peace is celebrated.  It is also reminiscent of the “Tree of Life”, and of Aaron's rod which turned into a blossoming Almond branch. 

 

The almond tree inspired people.  Israeli painters did landscapes of the hills of Israel with blossoming almond trees, and Van Gogh was inspired and painted the almond blossom series to celebrate a birth in his family.  

 

On “Tu Bi-shvat” thousands of Israelis go out to plant trees – the balance between the harm that mankind did to nature is being restored.

 

It is also traditional to have a Tu-Bi-shvat “Seder” with a meal including the fruits of trees:  nuts, a variety of dried fruits such as raisins, and fresh fruit.  The traditional fruit include almonds, and carob, as well as food prepared from the seven species of fruit from Israel - wheat, barley, olives, raisins, figs, dates and pomegranate.    

      

                                                                  Carobs

                                

 

                            A Tu-Bishvat Seder dish

                                                                                        

            The seven species

                                       

The Chassidic Jews also prepare candied Citron from the Ethrog (a special large bitter-lemon fruit that has a very strong aroma blessed at Succot.  During the meal four glasses of wine are drunk with blessings in a particular order, starting with white wine, followed with white mixed with a bit red wine (or pink wine), pink wine with a bit of red, and closing with dark red wine, all this sequence symbolising striving to attain the highest level of spirituality.

 

          

 

The tree gives us shade, shelter and food and we take a day to celebrate it!  The birds have their homes in it too, which brings us to Valentine’s Day.  Chaucer wrote that the 14th of February is the day when the birds choose their mates.  “Valentines day” brings with it messages of LOVE.  According to ancient traditions, lovers' names were drawn from a cup.  “Valentines” were primarily anonymous written messages.  In England young men used to make “heart-shaped” wooden spoons to give as valentines. It was also believed in England that Jack Valentine was leaving treats for children at the rear door on February 14.  The legends surrounding St. Valentines Day have to do with St. Valentine the priest who performed weddings of Roman soldiers and was jailed for it.  The story also include the fact that Julia the daughter of St. Valentines guardian in jail, who has planted a pink-blossoming Almond Tree next to St. Valentines grave.  How charming it is to know that holidays of different cultures have some common meanings.  (Image taken from public domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine%27s_Day)

In North America there is a commercialised version of giving bought cards, chocolates and going to a restaurant where a rose is offered to each lady.  So I hope that everybody will celebrate both holidays and enjoy it all.

 

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