The New Year of the Trees

In Israel at the end of January, the almond trees are beginning to burst with white and pink and even yellow blossoms. All the flowering trees are blooming. Things are growing. The calendar says winter…but the weather says spring! As we celebrate Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees, on February 4, we look out our windows in Boston and see brown—brown grass, bare, brown trees, maybe even snow. It’s hard to make the connection, especially with our young children. Here are some ideas for helping your children celebrate Tu BiShvat in meaningful and fun ways:

  • Find a tree near your house. Talk about how it looks now and check on it weekly to note changes. Are there tiny buds? Are leaves beginning to grow? Bring a clipboard and crayons along and encourage your child to “journal” his or her observations. Children are natural scientists.
  • Tear pictures of trees out of old magazines and seed catalogs and help your child make a collage with poster board and a glue stick. Note how trees are similar and different.
  • Ask Israeli friends or go online to find pictures of trees blossoming in Israel. Compare them with trees you see in your neighborhood.
  • Try new fruits that grow on trees. Dried fruits from trees that grow in Israel include dates, apricots and figs. Try a new recipe with fruit and engage your child in baking. When we try a new food, it’s traditional to say the Shehecheyanu prayer together:

Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign (or king) of the universe
shehecheyanu v’kiyimanu v’higi’anu laz’man hazeh (Amen)
Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season (Amen)

  • Gather together with friends for a Tu BiShvat seder. There are many resources to make this a fun time for your family.
  • While in Israel Tu BiShvat is a time to plant new trees, you can purchase a new house plant instead and give your child the responsibility of watering it and making sure it has enough sunlight. Amaryllis bulbs are readily available this time of year and can grow to a height of almost three feet, with amazing large flowers.

In the sometimes bleak and gray days of winter, the holiday of Tu BiShvat can remind us that spring is coming and provide us and our young children with ways to connect with the land and the people of Israel.

For more holiday resources, check out how to make a Tu BiShvat recycled planter and these tips for creating a green household.

Sharon Cores is the lead teacher at the Jewish Preschool of Lexington.