Tu BiShvat, called the "New Year of the Trees," falls at a seemingly incongruous time of year.
Tu BiShvat is a minor festival whose provenance dates only to the time of the Second Temple. However, the kabbalists who clustered around the great fifteenth-century mystic Isaac Luria of Safed placed great weight on the holiday, creating new festivities, gatherings at which hymns were sung, fruit (particularly carob) was eaten, and four cups of wine were taken (as in the Passover seder).
One favorite dish of the Ashkenazim that survived the move from the shtetl to North America was the hearty mushroom-potato-barley soup called krupnick.
Winter weighs on the soul of this author. She finds comfort, though, in the moon cycles and their symbols, laden with meaning, healing, comfort, and inspiration.
When our ancestors experienced darkness, they lit a fire. Today, as we battle apathy in response to fear and doubt, we seek direction in light.