When most people think of the "Jewish holidays" what first comes to mind are the Rosh HaShanna (the onset of the new year) and Yom Kippur (the day of repentance), and, for lack of a better term those are "heavy holidays", days in which one is called on to measure the status and well-being of one's soul.
Fortunately, not all of the Jewish holidays are heavy and one of the lightest by far is the celebration of Tu b'Av. Set on the 15th day of the month of Av, the holiday is a rather ancient one, tracing its roots to the days of the days of the Second Temple when this was the date that marked the symbolic onset of the grape harvest.
A truly light holiday on which unmarried young women would dress in borrowed white dresses to go out and dance in the vineyards. It goes without saying that the young unmarried men of the community joined them and it did not take long until the holiday became associated with match-making and weddings. That the holiday probably had its origins in pagan mid-summer solstice celebrations has long been forgotten by most but that the holiday has come to be known as "the holiday of love" still rules supreme.
In modern day Israel many families still go to visit the vineyards, on some kibbutzim the young girls will still do their white-dressed dances, and in the cities restaurants and wine bars feature sparkling wines as well as rose and white wines and fanciful meals, Considering the heat of the day and the coolness of the beaches in the evening hours, many of the celebrations take place at seafront tavernna style restaurants. A somewhat odd reality is that this is one holiday celebrated more by the non-observant than the orthodox. It has even been said that the best Tu b'Av parties take place at embassies where, although very few are Jewish, it provides a great reason to have a party.
This year (2008), the holiday falls on this coming Saturday, 16 August. My plans – blinis with crème fraiche and caviar and gravlax along with a sparkling wine yet to be selected, smoked salmon with capers for brunch and for dinner a roast beef (well coated with mustard before being browned and then transferred to the oven) and with that either a local red or a fine Bordeaux red. Dessert will be peches melba with an appropriate sweet wine.
Honestly, one does not even have to be Jewish to celebrate love! Do any of our forum members have plans for the holiday?