You've probably heard of Tu B'Av as Jewish Valentine's Day, and while it is a day of love, there are a few key differences between the two.
Taking place on the fifteenth of Av, this minor Jewish holiday is a time of great joy. The holiday itself goes back to the days of Temple, but in post-biblical times, it was a day of matchmaking for unmarried folks, particularly women.
The first mention of it is in the Mishnah,
There were no better (i.e. happier) days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Israel/Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What were they saying: Young man, consider whom you choose (to be your wife)? (Ta’anit, 4:8)
"Chasidut explains that the benefit of Tu B'Av comes as a result of blessing the moon, which is done close to the middle of the month, the time when the moon is completely full" (1).
After the mourning and grieving of Tisha B'Av, we experience the swelling of joy and love under the full moon on Tu B'Av. This is what makes this one of the most important full moons of the Jewish calendar.
Plus, it is also seen as an especially auspicious day to get married and engaged!
For those looking to celebrate, here are a few ways.
While many of these traditions began with unmarried women, they have been revived and enjoyed by people of all genders and marital statuses. It is a day to celebrate love.
Wear White (preferably borrowed)
Start the "something borrowed" a bit early with this tradition. It was custom to dress up in white, but not just that---According to Leora Jackson, "There is meaning in the borrowed dresses: we are told that the women borrowed from one another so as not to embarrass those who did not have a dress." Show love for not only yourself, but your community, and put on a beautiful white dress or clothes. Bonus points if you can share!
Dance in the Moonlight
I know it sounds like a joke, but I promise it isn't! It is a tradition to go out and dance, preferably under the full moon, with your friends! This stems from young, unmarried women dancing in the fields and vineyards as a means of showing off to other unmarried folks. Nowadays, make sure you're staying safe when doing so, but if you can, the more the merrier! If it's safe for you to do so, a dance on your own can be extremely fulfilling.
During these times, we are reminded more than ever of the importance of self-love. Even if you round up the group, spend some time dancing in the moonlight for yourself. Stay in tune with your body, your mind, and your heart---what does it mean for you to love yourself? What does it mean to nourish yourself and your heart? How can you be the best lover of yourself?
Traditionally, the aforementioned dancing took place in the fields and vineyards of the villages. If you have such a luxury of fields and vineyards near you, go out and dance to your hearts content.
While traditionally this dancing supposedly took place in vineyards and fields, we know that it isn't possible for everyone. If you're a city dweller lacking access to such natural spaces, a park or even your own garden can be the perfect solution. Find beautiful nature wherever you are and go for it...if none is available, see the next step.
Grapes & Wine
If you're not near a vineyard to dance in, pick up your favorite bottle of wine and some delicious grapes and go to town at home. Dancing with a glass of wine in hand while wearing white is a bit of a risk, but all in the name of love! You can always add a bite of cheese to turn it into a full charcuterie board.
Celebrate All Kinds of Love
While romantic love is most often celebrated, there are so many others. There are those in our lives (friends and family) who mean so much to us. Take the day to send them a bit of love as well. And don't forget about those who have passed on. Light a candle or take a moment to think about those who you love who have passed on and remember them and the love you had for them, and vice versa.
Take Time for Self Love
We've already discussed dancing alone in the moonlight, but there are so many ways to love and honor yourself. Here are just a few suggestions:
anoint a candle for yourself using your favorite herbs
write a journal about self-love and your journal
write a letter to yourself to open next year on Tu B'Av
treat yourself to your favorite foods
take a relaxing self-love bath
If you're already in a relationship, take the night to have an especially auspicious date night. A moonlight picnic, perhaps?
Tu B'Av may be a minor holiday, but that doesn't mean you can't celebrate it with vigor under the full moon!