6 Ways to Celebrate Tu B’Av on the Jewish Day of Love

  *Originally posted to InterfaithFamily

*Originally posted to InterfaithFamily

When InterfaithFamily reached out to me about writing a post for Tu B’Av, I have to admit, I had to do some research: Tu B’Av is not widely celebrated in my Reform Jewish community in San Francisco.

One of the most interesting Intro to Judaism classes I took at our temple was a class on the Jewish calendar. Jewish time is determined by the sun and primarily by the moon, making it a lunisolar calendar. The calendar is so beautifully and thoughtfully designed to punctuate the year with rituals that help us heal, reflect, mark time and celebrate. Many Jewish holidays were designed to take place on the brightest night of the month, during the full moon; Tu B’Av is one of those nights.

First things first, what does Tu B’Av mean? Tu refers to the number 15, and Av is the name of the Jewish month. Av has historically been the month of destruction and mourning. Earlier in the month is Tisha B’Av (ninth day of the month of Av), which is the holiday commemorating the destruction of the first and second Holy Temples in Jerusalem.Tisha B’Av has historically been a bad day for us Jews, on which we were expelled from many countries. It’s Saturday, July 21 - Sunday July 22 this year. Coincidentally, I plan to celebrate Obon, a Buddhist and Japanese festival of the dead, to honor my ancestors.

Just a few days later on Tu’B Av (Thursday, July 26 - Friday July 27) the tides turn. Tu’ B Av can be traced back to the grape harvest, when single women would dress in white and dance in the light of the full moon in vineyards to signal their status as being eligible for marriage. It’s been written that Tu B’Av was one of the only times a year that the 12 tribes of Israel would intermingle, making Tu B’Av the original celebration of intermarriage and the ultimate matchmaking dance party!

Today, Tu B’Av is making a comeback in Israel, where it’s celebrated as a modern Jewish Valentine’s Day with ancient roots. To me, Tu B’Av is an opportunity to celebrate love and it’s diverse expressions today. Here are a few ideas of ways to commemorate and celebrate!

  1. Throw a Loving Day celebration. Loving Day commemorates Loving v. Virginia (1967), the landmark Supreme Court decision that declared all laws against interracial marriage unconstitutional in the US. Loving Day is not a national holiday (yet), but it takes place on or around June 12th. Tu B’Av is the perfect Jewish holiday to celebrate the mixed race and interfaith marriages that make up an increasing number of marriages in our Jewish communities! Visit this link to learn more about how to throw a Loving Day party. 
  2. Though Pride month is officially the month of June, why not keep the celebrations going? While large strides have been made for equality for LGBT people, there is still lots more work to be done. Spend the evening watching an LGBT film, sign the ACLU’s Equality Act Now petition to Congress, and/or get involved and stay updated with the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBTQ equality. What better way to celebrate love, than to advocate for love in every form?
  3. Check out At the Well’s month of Av guide. It’s like reading your Jewish horoscope for the month! 
  4. Go on a date night with your love. Some Tu B’Av-specific ideas include: A moonlit stroll, visiting a wine bar (to celebrate the grape harvest, of course), going dancing out or have your own little dance party at home.
  5. Go dancing with friends and wear all white.
  6. If you’re having a date night at home, whip up one of my Japanese and Jewish recipes like kabocha pumpkin soup with challah croutons or Japanese-style cotton cheesecake. Molly Yeh and Joan Nathan are a couple of my favorite Jewish chefs who blend cultures beautifully and deliciously in their recipes.