Tu B'Shevat is the Jewish New Year of Trees
Trees are extremely important in Judaism: trees are used metaphorically to consider G-d and life in Judaism and the planting of trees is holy. Combine that with the very modern importance of reclaiming the baron desert of Israel through planting trees, and it's easy to see why a celebration of trees is part of our tradition.
This year Tu B'Shevat falls on January 22nd. Many Jews will be celebrating by holding a seder consisting of drinking wine, eating fruit, praising G-d for creating these things, and reminding ourselves that we are stewards of the Earth. One way we drive home the point of our responsibility to the Earth and to humankind is by eating carob. Carob is indigenous of the land of Israel and it takes a special meaning because of how long it takes to bear fruit: up to 70 years. "Why plant a carob tree if you won't live to eat its fruit?," an old man is asked in a Talmudic tale. The old man replies that it is for his children and grandchildren. We must take care of this world for the next generation.
Along with carob, it is traditional to eat the "seven species", which are fruits of the earth mentioned in the bible and native to the land of Israel: pomegranates, dates, barley, wheat, figs, olives, and grapes. Also, participants get to drink four glasses of wine ranging from white to red!
Thinking of doing a Tu B'shevet seder? Check out the January/February Jewish Living Magazine for their Tu B'shevet seder recipes including: red pepper and olive bruschetta, pomegranate-glazed lamb roast, and pistachio-stuffed medjool dates. Yum. The Mag even pairs the courses with four wines to complement the food: A Yarden Odem Chardonnay, Dalton Cabernet, Rothschild Le Rose', and a Herzog Chenin Blanc.