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.
Literally, “four species.” The Torah specifies four species to bring together on Sukkot. The four species are: lulav (branches of palm trees), etrog (citron), hadasim (myrtle branches), and aravot (willows) (Leviticus 23:40).
The family of five sons who led the revolt against the Hellenization of Jerusalem and became the heroes of the Hanukkah story.
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.