Despite the recent snowfall in Virginia Beach, many celebrated the coming of spring today with a Jewish holiday called Tu B'Shevat.
Named for the date on which it falls (the fifteenth day in the month of Shevat), Tu B'Shevat is a time to celebrate the changing of the seasons. In Israel, many trees begin to produce buds and blooms at this time. Also known as the "New Year for Trees," Tu B'Shevat marks a passing year in the age of trees. Rather than keep track of the date that each tree was planted, one can count the number of Tu B'Shevats that have passed. The age of a tree is important for tithing purposes and because, in Leviticus 19:23-25, the Lord restricts the consumption of fruit, based on the tree's age.
When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden; it must not be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am the Lord your God.
For this reason, some choose to plant trees on Tu B'Shevat. Many choose to celebrate the holiday by eating traditional Israeli foods, especially the Shivat Haminim, or "Seven Species." The Shivat Haminim are the seven agricultural products described in Deuteronomy 8:8:
For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land... 8 a land with wheat and barley, [grape] vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey.
Tu B'Shevat recipes abound, with everything from fruit salad to pomegranate infused fig and Kalamata olive tapenade. Joyofkosher.com is a particularly good resource. Some hold full seders to celebrate the holiday.
Even while Virginia Beach residents are shoveling snow, Tu B'Shevat serves as a reminder that spring is on its way.