Today, as I write, is Rosh Chodesh Av. (Oh no, nonsense syllables!) This means it's the New Moon, or the first day, of the Jewish month of Av, and thus the beginning of the nine day period called, oddly enough, the Nine Days. This occurs at the end of the three week period called the Three Weeks, and will end on Tisha B'Av, which occurs on the ninth day of Av and means The Ninth of Av. So, the naming isn't so hot. It's not a happy time of year; we should come up with nice names?
The Three Weeks begin on the 17th of Tammuz, which is a minor fast (daylight only). It's when the walls of Jerusalem were breached. It also begins a time of minor mourning. This means we refrain from wearing new clothes, listening to live music and holding weddings. Many of those men who shave the rest of the year do not shave during the Three Weeks. Some people refrain from unnecessary travel as well.
This intensifies during the Nine Days - we do not *buy* new clothes, and many do not do laundry or wear clean clothes - they manage this by putting on all the outerwear they intend to use for those days and taking them off again in a "fashion show." We do not swim - a hardship in summer. We only bathe when necessary - we modern folk are very sensitive, so that may mean every day. We do not eat meat; we do not drink wine
Except for the Sabbath or preparing for the Sabbath. There is no mourning on the Sabbath. Also, if there is some sort of celebration, such as a bris or the completion of a holy book, it is permitted to eat meat.
This ends on Tisha B'Av, which is a major fast day. That means no food, water, anointing oneself, bathing or having sexual relations for 25 hours. This being TB"A, it also means unlaundered clothing and refraining from sitting in regular chair (as mourners do) until the afternoon. We also refrain from studying Torah or greeting one another. On TB"A, both Temples were destroyed. We were expelled from Spain in 1492. And we remember other calamities, like the Crusaders in Germany or the Shoah. It's just not a happy day.
And I fast very badly. I think we're planning on attending a day long program, which should work fine. And I'll have my new cross stitch project by then. It's a picture of the Western Wall. Highly appropriate.