I first learned about Tu B’Shvat when I was planning my wedding many years ago. My then fiancé (now husband) and I were meeting with a Rabbi who we were considering for the ceremony. When he learned that Rob was an arborist (tree doctor), he educated us about the customs and traditions surrounding the Jewish new year for Trees.
In ancient days, there was a custom of planting a cedar tree for a baby boy, and a cypress tree for a baby girl. As the children grew, they tended the trees and the trees grew along with the children. When they married, the wood from their respective trees would be used for the poles in their Chuppah (marriage canopy). This carried the tradition of loving trees from generation to generation in a concrete and special way.
Another custom associated with Tu B’Shvat is to eat fruits from the seven species from the Land of Israel: …a land of wheat and barley and (grape) vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and (date) honey.
In recent years, Tu B’Shevat has become a Jewish Earth Day devoted to environmentalism. Common practices include planting new trees and raising money for trees to be planted in Israel.
In 2010, it will occur from sunset January 29 to nightfall January 30.