We need trees. They take our carbon dioxide and give us back fresh oxygen to breathe. The tree is a symbol of the continuity of life. Many people plant a tree to celebrate a new life or to commemorate one that has passed. We talked about our ancestors as the roots of our “family tree.” In this metaphor, we are branches reaching to the sky.

The sacred relationship between trees and people can be traced to various traditions in ancient Europe. In Norse mythology, the universe sat upon Yggdrasill, a giant tree with roots extending into various underworlds.

In Celtic tradition, the “fairy tree” is a portal between the human and fairy world.

The maypole dance is a spring ritual dating back to pre-Christian times. Dancing around a tree trunk with colorful ribbons is a celebration of fertility, meant to ensure an abundant harvest for the coming season.

In the Jewish tradition, we talk about the Torah as “the Tree of Life,” or etz chaim. The Torah, like a tree, is a living thing that provides shelter and nourishment, and “all those who hold fast to it are happy.”

Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish Arbor Day, is early this year! It begins on January 16. It is a time to celebrate trees, and to remember that we are not separate from nature, but very much a part of it.

Find books about Tu B’Shevat and the wonderful world of trees at https://www.karben.com/Tu-BShevat_c_57.html.

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