Tu Bishvat appeals to me for so many reasons. One reason is that my own spirituality is nature based and any tradition of planting trees suits me well. When I first learned of Tu Bishvat I wondered if this tradition had come about due to sages of older days observing nature and linking trees with water and the lack of trees with desertification (in warmer climates). After researching this line of thought it appears that the tradition came to be out of an acknowledgment that human kind can not keep taking from nature without giving something back. To do so would be to bring an end to the resource that accommodates and sustains our lives and lifestyles. This tradition is founded on wisdom and a respect for the resources human kind depends upon.
I found an article which explains Jewish festivals and traditions and explains that many of the customs are based around the agricultural calender and, similar to Paganism, honour the solstices and equinoxes as times of great significance marked by festivals and holidays. Tu Bishvat does not appear to have been included in the original Jewish scriptures instead being borne from the necessity of paying taxes in the form of fruits and nuts and with foresight that many trees would be felled in springtime. Tu Bishvat is an attempt to replace trees before they are depleted.
Another aspect of Tu Bishvat is the importance of knowing the exact age of a tree. One should not eat fruits of the tree in the first four years of the trees life and the day of the shevat that the tree was planted on determines the age of the tree in years, not the actual age of the tree in calendar years.
It is customary to eat nuts (almonds) and raisins during the festival of Tu Bishvat and to plant almond trees. I wanted to create a piece of fibre art to honour this festival and was very inspired by almond blossoms and the mythology of the almond tree. I stated to make a shawl. The shawl is of epic proportions (3.5 metres x 1 metre) and has yet to be completed but the design incorporates almond bowers laiden with blossoms. Lets hope I get it finished in time for the actual Tu Bishvat!
Greek mythology tells of the beautiful princess Phyllis, who was left waiting at the altar on her wedding day by her intended, Demophon. Phyllis waited for years for him to return, but finally died of a broken heart. In sympathy, the gods transformed Phyllis into an almond tree, which became a symbol of hope. When the errant, remorseful Demonphon returned to find Phyllis as a leafless, flowerless tree, he embraced the tree. The tree suddenly burst into bloom, a demonstration of love not conquered by death. Below you can see a painting painted in 1907 by John William Waterhouse which was inspired by Demophon and Phyllis.
T - Thankfulness - be thankful for vegetation
R - Recycle - Help our trees
E - Environment
E - Eco-Friendly
S - Save The Trees