Celebrate the Birthday of the Trees with Tu B’Shevat Crafts for Kids!
What is Tu B’Shevat?
While many non-Jewish people are familiar with Jewish holidays such as Chanukah and Passover, many have not heard of Tu B’Shevat, the New Year or birthday of the trees.
Tu B’Shevat literally means the 15th of Shevat, a month on the Jewish calendar. On our Gregorian calendar, this holiday typically falls between the last week of January and the middle of February. In 2018, Tu B’Shevat begins on the evening of January 30th.
In Israel, it is early spring. This once desert land now blooms with trees planted by the early settlers. The fruits of these trees feed the Israeli people and provide them with a means to earn a living. Fruit is sold locally and exported around the world. The first trees to bloom are like the ones in the main photo, the almond tree.
Hebrew Schools, Jewish day schoolsn and preschools and other schools where Jewish learning takes place celebrate Tu B’Shevat with songs, arts and crafts, and a Tu B’Shevat seder.
What is a Tu B’Shevat Seder?
A Tu B’Shevat seder is based on the Passover seder. This tradition has been around for a few hundred years, when the Jews in the diaspora (exile) wanted to remember the fruits of Israel. Like Passover, four cups of wine are served and drank. Unlike Passover, where the wine is the same, at a Tu B’Shevat seder, the wine begins light and progressively gets darker. With children, different fruit juices are used, from white grape to apple to purple grape.
Three different kinds of fruit are served at a Tu B’Shevat seder: fruit that is entirely edible (like figs or any berries), fruit with an inedible pit (like an olive, cherry, peach or nectarine), and fruit with a hard an inedible outer shell (like an orange or a grapefruit).
This is a lovely tradition to have with your family, and unlike the traditional Passover seder, it is not as long and the food to prepare is not as fussy. There is no house to clear of leaven, no dishes to change and no special foods to purchase.
Planting a Tree-A Tu B’Shevat TraditionAmerican Jews plant trees in Israel via The Jewish National Fund. A certificate is sent to the person who is being honored, or to the family of the person who is being remembered. This makes a lovely gift for any time of year, not just at Tu B’Shevat.
Hebrew Schools will be sending the forms home at the beginning of the month, as well as blue and white JNF pushka boxes like the one pictured on the right.. Planting a tree is a beautiful act of tzedakah (charity). The tree will be alive long after we are gone.
My synagogue has planted so many trees in Israel that they had to open a second grove to plant more. This is something we have been committed to as a congregation. By continually planting trees, we give a gift that will endure throughout the generations.
A Tu B’Shevat Folktale
This is story that I share with my class each year on the birthday of the trees.
A rich man is riding his horse on a road and he sees an old man planting a tree. The rich man stops his horse and says to the elderly gentleman, “Why do you waste your time planting this tree that you will never live to see bloom or eat the fruit it grows? You are indeed a foolish old man!”
The old man stood up and spoke to the rich man. “Yes, you are correct, I will never live to see this tree grow and bare fruit, nor will it provide me with any shade.” The old man then pointed to a nearby tree.
“Do you see that olive tree? My grandfather planted it when I was just a boy. For most of my life, I have sat in it’s shade and have eaten the fruit it bore. I am only doing the same for my grandchildren.”
The rich man felt like a fool and rode off in silence.
Tree Crafts for Tu B’Shevat
Tree crafts can be found everywhere and can be done for all levels, preschool to the upper elementary grades. One of my favorite ways to craft with children is through baking. When you think about it, baking is an edible craft. You can bake the cookies with your students in class and decorate the next time you meet or you can bake them at home and decorate them in school.
After your cookies are cool, frost them with chocolate icing for the trunk and color white icing with green food coloring for the leaves. You can also use white icing with green sugar for topping of leaf sprinkles.
Fruit Craft Supplies
Fruit is a central part of the Tu B’shevat seder. Naturally, crafts for this Jewish holiday shold center around both trees and the fruits that they bear. While there may not be any fig or date stickers for your students to use, there are plenty of others that will get the point across.
Here are some fun fruit items for your Tu B’Shevat crafts!
Fruit Shapes Self Stick Foam Shapes 500/pk. from Amazon
Create many amazing crafts with this package of fruit shapes.
Inkadinkado Trees Wood Stamp Set from Amazon
These wooden stampers have gorgeous pictures of trees that can decorate all kinds of Tu B’Shevat crafts. When working with younger children, be sure to use a washable ink pad.
Featured photo from pixabay.com and edited in Canva