Yes, it’s true, according to Jewish Tradition there are, in fact, four “New Years.”1

1 Nissan - New Year for Kings and Festivals

“This month [Nissan] shall be to you the head of the months. To you, it shall be the first of the months of the year.”2

What is meant by this? Rashi explains:

“This shall be the first of the order of the number of the months, so Iyar shall be called the second [month], and Sivan the third [month].”3

Indeed, this is how the months are referenced throughout Scripture. For example, the years of a Jewish king’s reign are counted from Nissan to Nissan. So if a new king was crowned in Adar, the second year of his reign would start less than a month later, on the 1st of Nissan—the “New Year for Kings.” This had practical ramifications, as it was common to date documents according to the years of the king’s reign.4

The 1st of Nissan is also the “New Year for Festivals.” This means that Passover is the first of the Pilgrimage Festivals, Shavuot the second, and Sukkot the last, in line with the order listed in the Torah. This has practical applications concerning an individual who vowed to bring a gift to the Temple. When do we consider his vow unfulfilled? The Talmud states that once three festivals have passed, he is liable for the prohibition: “When you make a vow to the L-rd, your G‑d, you shall not delay in paying it.” According to Rabbi Shimon, you would violate this prohibition only if the three festivals passed in their proper order, i.e., beginning with Passover and finishing with Sukkot.5

Read: Our Other Head

1 Elul - New Year for Animal Tithes

In Temple times, there was an obligation to tithe every tenth animal of one’s flock. This animal was sacrificed in the Temple, and the owners consumed its meat within the walls of Jerusalem.6 Each year, one had an obligation to count the new animals and tithe them. This count starts on the first of Elul; any animals born before this date are part of the previous year’s flock.

Read: The Tithe of the Herd

1 Tishrei - New Year for Years

Rosh Hashanah, the 1st of Tishrei, is the Jewish New Year. The Mishnah7 describes it as “The New Year for years, Shemitah, Jubilee, for planting and [tithing] vegetables.” The “New Year for Years” refers simply to the number of years since creation.8 Rosh Hashanah, as the birthday of all Creation,9 is celebrated as a holiday. It is the day we crown G‑d our king and blow the shofar. Additionally, the Sabbatical and Jubilee years begin on the1st of Tishrei. From that date, all pertinent laws apply.

It is also the date from which we count the planting of trees, which is necessary to calculate when a tree ceases to have the status of orlah. For the first three years after planting, a tree’s fruits are considered orlah and are forbidden.10 This count does not start when the tree is planted, but from the previous Rosh Hashanah. (If the tree was planted after the 16th of Av, the count begins from the upcoming Rosh Hashanah, resulting in a count of a little over three years.)

Finally, the 1st of Tishrei marks the cutoff date for tithing vegetables. Anything picked after Rosh Hashanah is not tithed with produce harvested in the previous year.

Read: What Is Rosh Hashanah?

15 Shevat - New Year for Trees

The 15th of Shevat, commonly known as Tu BiShvat, is the only “New Year” aside from Rosh Hashanah that is celebrated today. It is a time of renewal, when the sap rises to nurture the fruits of the coming spring, and many have the custom to eat fruits, particularly those of the seven species with which the Land of Israel is blessed.

But it also has practical halachic ramifications. Fruit formed on the tree before the 15th of Shevat is tithed with the previous year’s fruit. Additionally, we explained above that fruit from a tree in the first three years after planting is forbidden. In the fourth year, it is called neta revai and must be redeemed before consumption. Fruit that ripens before the 15th of Shevat in year four is still considered orlah and not neta revai.11

Read: Tu BiShvat: What and How