This Tuesday night, about a million people are expected to gather in front of Times Square to watch the ball drop to usher in the year 2014. For those who cannot get there who prefer to stay indoors when the temperature is below freezing, there's a free app download available for both Android and iPhone. While Wednesday will be the first day of the first month of a new year on the secular calendar, Thursday will mark the first day of the month of Shvat on the Jewish calendar, which marks another kind of new year.
Shvat is the time of the New Year for the trees. The actual date was a mater of dispute between the students of Hillel and Shamai. The latter opted for Rosh Chodesh itself to mark the date. However, as the ruling tends to follow Hillel, we celebrate the day on the 15th of the month, on the holiday known as Tu B'Shvat.
In Tractate Ketubot we find the declaration that in future all trees in Israel will bear fruit. In Chiddushei Aggadot Maharal explains that in the future blessing will be complete. Consequently, even a tree that doesn't bear fruit will grow fruit, for there will be no lack of power in the land. Our present reality is that most of the trees we see around us do not yield fruit, but in the time of ultimate blessing, all will be fruitful. Perhaps that is why we celebrate the Rosh Hashana for trees through fruit. We are looking forward to a more perfect future in which the trees will arrive at their full potential, just as we hope to arrive at our full spiritual potential.
For more on Tu B'Shvat see this article