Religion & Beliefs

Light My Fire: How To Celebrate Tu B’Shevat

If you're like me, Tu b'Shevat didn't figure prominently in your upbringing. As a kid, we did the Purim carnivals and the Hanukkah parties; we erected an annual sukkah and always had a Passover seder, but the Jewish New Year … Read More

By / January 16, 2008

If you're like me, Tu b'Shevat didn't figure prominently in your upbringing. As a kid, we did the Purim carnivals and the Hanukkah parties; we erected an annual sukkah and always had a Passover seder, but the Jewish New Year for Trees, well–it didn't enjoy a whole lot of fanfare. In fact, it wasn't until recently that I learned what Tu b'Shevat is all about.

One of the four "new years" in the Jewish calendar, Tu b'Shevat celebrates the rebirth offered by the approaching spring season and the sanctity of the earth.

Being that it's a minor holiday with agricultural origins, Tu b'Shevat lends itself to all kinds of modern interpretations and applications. You can use these guides as a jumping off point, and below you'll find a few tips and ideas for hosting your own Tu b'Shevat seder.

  • Host a potluck. Ask your guests to each bring a dish that uses ingredients symbolic of the holiday: Examples include pomegranates, almonds, citrus fruits, coconuts, dates, olives, cherries, peaches and avocados.
  • Create a seder plate that represents the Kabbalistic concept of the "Four Worlds." Assiyah: nuts and fruits with a tough skin; Yetzirah: fruits with a tough inner core; B'riyah: fruits that are completely edible; Atzilut: leave this space on the plate empty, symbolizing divine emanation.
  • Provide four different wines, ranging in color from white to deep red. Explain that the colors symbolize the changing seasons.
  • Provide paper and markers, and encourage your guests to design a tree that best represents who they are and want to be, then share them with the group.
  • Give bonsai trees as party favors.
  • Organize a tree planting event for your friends, family, or co-workers with the help of one of these following groups:

American Forests P.O. Box 2000 Washington, DC 20013 Membership Hotline (800) 873-5323; fax (202) 667-7751 The citizens' conservation group for trees and forests, working for healthy communities and forest ecosystems.


Fairfax ReLeaf 2055 Government Center Parkway Suite 703, Fairfax, VA 22035 Telephone: (703) 324-1409 Plants and preserves trees, improves community appearance, and restores habitat on public and commons lands in Northern Virginia.

Forest Releaf of Missouri 4205 Lindell Boulevard St. Louis, MO 63108 Voice (314) 533-5323 or (314) 524-7305; Fax (314) 533-0016 Dedicated to increasing the tree population in Missouri metropolitan areas and to educate its public about trees, tree care and tree planting.

Greening Milwaukee 1150 East Brady Street Milwaukee WI 53202 Voice: (414) 273-8733; Fax: (414) 273-3393 Envisions a greener, cleaner Milwaukee by increasing tree planting and green space through education and involvement.

National Tree Trust 1120 G Street, N.W., Suite 770 Washington, DC 20005 Phone, (800) 846-8733 Seeks to increase volunteerism and civic pride in local communities and schools by promoting tree planting.

SeedTree RR 2 Box 802 West Cape, Stockton Springs, ME 04981 (207) 567-3056 Supports international tree planting efforts to protect and regenerate endangered forest ecosystems and biodiversity.

Tree Central USA P.O. Box 080054 SI, NY 10308 (917) 953-4724 America's tree fighters, dedicated to all trees rights being destroyed by builders.

Tree Musketeers 136 Main Street El Segundo, CA 90245 Telephone: (310) 322-0263 Empowers young people to lead environmental improvement in Earth's communities through innovative action and educational programs.

TreeFolks P.O. Box 704 Austin, Texas 78767 Voice and fax, (512) 443-5323 Promotes community partnerships in the renewal and care of the Austin/Central Texas urban forest through public tree plantings and education.

Tree-Mendous Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Forest Service Tawes State Office Building E-1 Annapolis MD 21401 Telephone, 410-260-8510 Works with volunteer groups planting and caring for trees on public land throughout the state.

TreePeople 12601 Mulholland Drive Beverly Hills, CA 90210 Telephone, (818) 753-4600 An environmental education and activist organization that has been the leader in the community forestry movement.

Trees for Life 3006 W. Saint Louis Street Wichita, KS 67203-5129 Telephone, (316) 263-7294 Empowers people by demonstrating that in helping each other, we can unleash extraordinary power that impacts our lives.

Trees for the Future PO Box 7027 Silver Spring, MD 20907 A non-profit organization initiating and supporting agroforestry self-help projects.

[Killer list of tree planting organizations courtesy of Marshall House Empowerment Consulting.]