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This Shabbat,when my daughter’s friend took a double take at my colorful fruit and flower dining room centerpiece, my daughter explained, “Yeah, my mom is The Jewish Hostess…. check out our Tu Bishvat table.”
“WOW- WHEN IS TU BISHVAT YOUR MOTHER IS SO CUTE! HOW COOL!” Was her friend Danielle’s response.
Tu Bishvat is a celebration of the new trees and fruits of the land of Israel. It has loosely evolved into a Jewish Earth Day and celebration of nature. Its a moment to reflect upon the blessings of our natural surroundings as many of us race through our hectic city lives.
For many years on Tu Bishvat, my kids would come home with a crafty Tu Bishvat green tree made of tissue paper, I’d buy some dried fruits pre-mixed on a plate, we would say the Shiv’ah minim berachot, and hallelujah lets get ready for Purim.
I’ve recently discovered that Tu Bishvat was an exciting holiday for kids way back in Syria, which was my grandparents home town. Actually, Tu Bishvat was even more exciting than Purim in which the adults celebrated the Megillah holiday by passing around the typical Syrian pastries to fellow neighbors and friends.
In Syria, weeks before Tu Bishvat arrived, the older women and mothers would gather beautiful fabrics and start sewing velvet bags with a drawstring for their excited children. Within these bags the adults would gather exotic fruits such as kiwi, pineapple, peaches, and plums that the children would have to savor on the holiday of Tu Bishvat. Each child would have a unique bag that they would bring to school on Tu Bishvat and show off and trade their tropical treasures with their friends. The kids would sleep with the bag tied to their bed post for several weeks until the seemingly magical bagful of sweet holiday memories was empty. Many of our Syrian Jewish community members who have recently arrived from Syria have saved their hand sewn Tu Bishvat bags till today.
As our many of us barely know how to sew, and thankfully we only need to go to the corner grocery store to pick up a pineapple, this tradition has fallen by the wayside. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t find ways to make this Jewish holiday meaningful and memorable in our own way.
This year, my family agreed to set our Shabbat table several days before Tu Bishvat arrived. As my kids are getting into my Jewish Hostess table settings, each one pitched in with ideas. This past Thursday I decided to take a trip into NYC with the older kids to check out the flower market on 28 Street between 6 and 7th. Walking into each store is another adventure, and I knew I couldn’t go wrong purchasing any of the beautiful florals that abound on that wonderful street.
Looking at my centerpiece, I could really tell you that I sat with dirt, a shovel and wood crates and assembled these beautiful hyacinth and grass plants all by myself, but I have to be honest with you. They were sitting right there on the sidewalk outside the store, all perfect and ready to go. My daughters and I chose 2 grass plants ($15 each) that were planted into wood crates, and 2 hyacinth plants(about $20 each). We decided that we would figure out how we would set the table later on. I bargained a little, asked the guy to re-pot some of the plants that were a little wilty looking, paid, got the car from the parking lot, pulled up, and he happily put the plants into the back seat. Check out Paradise Plants website HERE.
On Friday morning, I was so excited to set my table, I almost forgot to cook for Shabbat. I tried several variations, but in less than 10 minutes, I placed the 2 grass boxes one in front of the other and perched a glass cake plate in the middle atop the wood edges of the crates. The whole family mounded some pretty grapes, kumquats, pears, etc.in the center. (Ouri’s Fruit on Avenue U in Brooklyn is getting in their exotic fruits for Tu Bishvat this week, so I will make another trip over there on Monday.) I then placed the 2 gorgeous smelling hyacinth plants on either side.
As for the hot pink flowers on my lime green napkins…… although I was contemplating buying up all of these gorgeous artificial flowers myself, I have decided to share this great find with my Jewish Hostesses. They were about $2. each, and you can find them about 3 or 4 stores to the left of Paradise Plants. (I’m sorry, I threw out their business card!)
Love these hot pink flowers!
I’m so glad that I set the table and photographed it before my husband came home because as soon as he entered the house, he started sneezing and coughing, claimed a migraine, and blamed his brand new allergy on my poor perfumed hyacinth plants. Within minutes my plants were banished to the outside freezing windowsill, so if any of you know my cellphone, then just text me and I will give you permission to snatch them from my front porch!
My Banished Hyacinth Plants
In case you were wondering, Here is my new centerpiece sans the hyacinth plants:
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Decorating with Flowers: Classic and Contemporary Arrangements
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This year, we will have a Tu Bishvat Seudah, make Tu Bishvat Sangria, Almond Date Truffles, Shiva Minim Wheatberry Salad, talk about the environment and the earth, and enjoy the taste of beautiful springtime in the midst of a mid-winter February here in NYC.
I hope you will too!
I’ve also compiled a list of 10 EASY AND GREAT THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR KIDS ON TU BISHVAT. Check it out HERE.
To learn more about the UNFORGETTABLE holiday of Tu Bishvat, CLICK HERE.
Happy Tu Bishvat! Marlene M.