About two hours ago, I absconded from work to grab a Pepsi at the Marshall Center, and as I approached the building, a guy asked me if I had my flower yet. Huh? I was leery at first, thinking he was a Bible thumper or a salesman, but he explained to the poor confused me that today was "the Jewish Arbor Day" and gave me a styrofoam cup filled with dirt and wildflower seeds.

"Tu B'Shevat" literally means the 15th day of the month of Shevat in Hebrew. Its importance stems from Leviticus 19:23-25, instructing Jews to not eat the fruit from trees for the first three years of a tree's life. The fruit of the fourth year is for God, and on the fifth year it's fair game for eating. Tu B'Shevat (which does not appear in the Torah) is the "New Year" or "birthday" for all trees. Any tree planted before that day, even as recently as the day before, is considered one year old on the next Tu B'Shevat.

Like Arbor Day, there isn't much in the way of official or traditional customs to celebrate this occasion. Some people eat fruit or have a seder and bless fruit and read from texts on trees. Others plant trees or collect money for tree planting in Israel.

Mark your calendars for the upcoming Tu B'Shevats:

February 8, 2001 (Jewish year 5760)
January 28, 2002 (Jewish year 5762)
January 18, 2003 (Jewish year 5763)
February 7, 2004 (Jewish year 5764)

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