Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tu B'Shevat

Today is Tu B'Shevat, a relatively minor Jewish holiday, but a holiday nonetheless. Alyce and I rarely pass by the opportunity to make a craft, so in our house we love these days. Tu B'Shevat is special to me for non-craft reasons, too, because it was the first Jewish holiday I celebrated once I had begun my conversion to Judaism. In January 2006, after a few meetings with our rabbi, Matt and I signed up for a year long course on Judaism. It was a requirement for conversion and needed to be done before I could go before the beit din, or Jewish court, and formally convert. Tu B'Shevat is one of four Jewish New Year's, and this particular new year's celebration is for the trees! Technically this is a day to mark the age of trees for tithing purposes (and is introduced in the Talmud), but now those who celebrate Tu B'Shevat use the day as a chance to give thanks for the fruit and nuts that grow on trees (especially those that grow in Israel). It has also been used as a springboard to discuss contemporary ecological issues, so for a minor holiday, there is still a lot to work with!

We used the coming of Tu B'Shevat to spend some time learning about trees, taking walks in the woods (we have another one scheduled for after school with Alyce), and, of course, making things. The tree in the first photo above is my childhood tree located around the edge of the old cemetery behind my house. My friend and I each had our own tree, mine named Fred, hers named Harry, and we spent hours in them. Hours. I still visit it, and sometimes I even find a tree fairy poking around. Can you spot her? She's the one that resembles a puffy blue marshmallow with rosy cheeks.

Alyce and I made a tree painting that we covered in pictures of fruit that we drew. I painted a large tree trunk and then she went to town with the leaves. While we were busy tree-making, Shira painted her own hands blue. Before dinner last night Alyce and I hung the painting on the front door, waiting for Matt to come home and find a surprise. Just for the record, internet, the man walked up to the house, opened the door with the enormous blue poster board painted with an enormous tree, and didn't notice it at all. Alyce and I sent him right back outside to take proper notice, Which he did, and he loved it, of course. Alyce declared this morning that it is never coming down, so he'll have many opportunities to enjoy it.

For a few more tree-inspired crafts, check here.

For those of you celebrating, I hope it it's a lovely Tu B'Shevat where you live!

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