Rosh HaShanah La’Ilanot

A friend informed me today that today is Tu Bishvat on the Jewish calendar, otherwise known as Rosh HaShanah La’Ilanot, “The New Year of Trees.” What a cool idea. I had no idea that any such thing existed. As a lover of trees, I think it is very fitting and appropriate to have a holy day that is dedicated to them.

Traditionally, this day is celebrated with a special meal, similar to the Passover seder, but including many fruits and nuts of trees (click here for source), and the sharing of stories about trees and fruit from various works of Jewish literature. The categories are appealing too, making sure that all types of trees and fruits are remembered and included.

I love this idea and wish this celebration, or something like it, were more widespread! I don’t want to appropriate anyone else’s holiday, but some ideas are just too wonderful not to be respected and honored. Whether it be this date or another, I would have a holy day in my own calendar that is set aside specifically to honor the trees that have touched my life.

I would have a special moment of memory for the hackberry tree that used to be my favorite spot for reading outdoors as a child, and another for the fir that was planted by my dad in my name many years past, and one more for the maple he later planted for my daughter. I would honor the burr oaks I have come to love in my transplanted home of Wisconsin, and the beautiful catalpa trees whose leaves cause me such a severe allergic reaction in the fall. I would reminisce about all these trees, and I would consider the myths of a tree of life. Stories of Eden and of Yggdrasil and perhaps magical Rowan trees would be part of my ceremony, and I would dream of a pilgrimage to the Redwood forest or the Aspen Grove. I would read The Island by Elizabeth Barret Browning and recite Joyce Kilmer’s Trees. The more I think on this idea, the more I think it should come into being. It sounds so right!

For the Jewish people, this day marks the beginning of spring in Israel. I personally think of spring with the equinox, so I may have found a way to develop my own ritual for March 20th. Does anyone else know of holidays from any faith that are dedicated specifically to trees? I know that we have Arbor Day, but that is more of a secular tradition, and I am most curious about celebrations that include a role for spirit. As a matter of fact, if you have time set aside specifically to honor the Standing People, I would appreciate it if you would share a little of what you do. What rituals, traditions or ceremonies do you use? I would love to hear more!

In the yard there grows a Rowan.
Thou with reverent care should’st tend it.
Holy is the tree there growing.
Holy likewise are it’s branches.
On it’s boughs the leaves are holy.
And it’s berries yet more holy.

 Excerpted from The Kalevala, seen on The Rowan Tree site



One thought on “Rosh HaShanah La’Ilanot

  1. Great idea, to set aside time in March to honor trees, Didi. I would honor the Basswood tree that I sat in for hours as a kid, reading books and eating my lunch, watching things happening on the ground underneath me. Also the oak that grows right in front of our cabin and the big Norway pine near the lake, Northern Minnesota, Thunder Lake. I made a leaf collection in 8th grade and collected and identified 40 leaves (or maybe more as I was always into extra credit). I think that was the start of my love-affair with trees.

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