Saturday, February 07, 2004

Those pesky Jews, they even invented Tree Hugging (updated)
Today, besides celebrating the Shabbat, which we do every week, we also celebrate the New Year for the Trees, Tu b’Shvat. It’s a fun day, although better when it falls during the week. It’s time for planting trees, not a pastime observant Jews can engage in on a Shabbat. It’s also a time for eating dried fruits, and an interesting mixture always appears in the stores, in addition to the usual stuff. My all time favorite is dried quince, absolutely delicious, but horribly fattening. The smaller school kids have a field day on Tu b’Shvat, literally. They go out and plant trees. This year the reluctant teachers managed to weasel out of it, because it’s on a Shabbat. Youngest staggered home with three plants the other day. They were selling them at school. I’ve no idea how she managed to juggle three, but they arrived intact, a cyclamen, a violet and another one, Youngest said it’s called “primula”, but I can’t find that in the dictionary.

In recent years there has been an effort to get people to have a Tu b'Shvat Seder, like the Passover Seder. I think the idea is that it's something everyone can relate to - religious, secular, left, right and center - trees, nature, nice stuff. It’s apparently quite an ancient tradition, dating back to the elders of Tzfat (the town of Safed in the Upper Galilee) in the sixteenth century or something. I tried to do it with my family a few years ago, having edited out some of the Naomi Shemer songs. Even I have my limits. Well the table looked lovely, the fruit and nuts looked delectable, all organized on plates in three layers according to the Seder, but no one had any patience for reading and singing. They just ate and disappeared. So that was that. I should try it again now that Youngest is older. I think she’ll appreciate it. She's the only one who loves lighting the Shabbat candles with me.

Anyway, a belated Shabbat Shalom and I hope you are all enjoying Tu b'Shvat (even if you're not Jewish it's a good opportunity to look around and enjoy nature). And, of course, Hag Same'ach (a happy holiday) to all the trees.

Update: Ah, John to the rescue. Primula.

Update 2: Our Sis says I should be ashamed of myself - primula is the posh(=scientific) name for the primrose. Oh well, she was the one who took biology in high school. I am quite happy looking at a flower and saying "Isn't that a lovely flower?" I have no interest in knowing what it's called. I'm not completely ignorant though, I can tell the difference between an anemone and a poppy.

Lynn has a nice Tu b'Shvat post.