Tu B’Av is the quirky Jewish older brother of Valentine’s Day.
Here’s what you need to know about this ancient day of love:
This romantic holiday used to be the Second Temple period version of a singles mixer. Jewish women would go dancing in the vineyards, according to the Talmud, and unmarried men would go to the fields to pick out a wife.
The women would wear white dresses that they had borrowed, so that no one would be embarrassed if she didn’t own the proper garments.
Women would also go dancing on Yom Kippur, and the Talmud ranks the two holidays as the happiest days for the Jewish people for this reason.
On Tu B’Av day women and men from the different tribes of Israel could ignore earlier prohibitions against intermarriage, according to the Talmud.
The holiday’s Hebrew name simply translates to the date: the 15th of the month of Av. “Tu” is short for the Hebrew letters Tet (which represents “nine” in Hebrew numerals) and Vav (which represents “six”), adding up to the number 15.
The day is celebrated in Israel, much like Valentine’s Day in the United States, with flowers, romantic dinner dates and evening soirées. It is considered to be a good date for a wedding.
From the end of the Second Temple era until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, it was only commemorated by the omission of “Tachanun,” a penitential prayer included in the weekday morning and afternoon services. It’s not clear why the holiday was revived by Israelis.
Lovers taking an evening stroll outside can enjoy nature’s mood lighting, since the holiday falls on an evening with a full moon.
Contact Josefin Dolsten at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @JosefinDolsten
8 Quirkiest Facts About Tu B’Av — the ‘Jewish Valentine’s Day’ You Never Heard Of
Josefin Dolsten is a former news fellow at the Forward, writing about politics and culture, and editing the Sisterhood blog. She received an MA in Jewish Studies and Comparative Religion from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a BA in Government from Cornell University. Follow her on Twitter at @josefindolsten.