Tu B’Shevat, is marked in the Jewish calendar as a celebration of the sign of the early saplings and the beginning of the Spring. Known as the New Year for Trees, this festival is traditionally known as the festival of nature and marked by the planting of young trees across Israel and the involvement in ecological projects up and down the country. Tu B’Shevat is thought to be an agricultural festival with strong biblical roots and as with most Jewish festivals, religious or non, food plays an integral part. It is the fruits and grains native to the land of milk and honey that are significant on Tu B’Shevat and therefore it is customary to eat pomegranates, dates, figs, grapes, barley, wheat and olives, known as the 7 species from the book of Deuteronomy. Despite the heavy rains in Israel today, young trees are being planted and beautiful seasonal produce are being eaten, for today is Tu’B’Shevat and spring is in the air…..
It is tradition on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year to eat foods that symbolises the hope we have for sweetness in the coming year. Apples are used as a reminder from the times when the Israelites were in slavery, where the giving of a apple became the symbol of hope and from the land ‘flowing with milk and honey’ we take our sweetener. Slices of apples dipped into sweet honey has become customary as our way of wishing family and friends a happy and sweet new year…..Shana Tova V’Metuka. Other food customs to bring in the new year include making a round Challah loaf instead of the plaited bread traditional on Shabbat, symbolising the continuity of the creation in the circle of life and the pomegranate, a fruit full of seeds, is also considered to be very special to have on the table as the ‘new fruit’, full of optimism for the coming year.