What is the Status of 10th Av: May One Eat Meat?

My father has his birthday on 10th of Av (Friday this year) and I wanted to make a barbecue for him. Is it permissible to eat meat, drink wine and be joyful on the 10th of Av? According to my parents, the minhagh in the Caucasus was to abstain from meat (and wine I believe) during the whole week of 9 of Av.

Celebrating birthdays is not a particularly Jewish practice. The only birthday celebration mentioned in the T’nakh is that of the Egyptian Pharoah (B’reshith 40:20). A birthday celebration is not a misswa and is therefore not a reason to override any Tora issue.
The Talmudh (Bavli Ta’anith 29a) quotes R. Yohanan as saying that he would have chosen the 10th Av to be the national day of mourning seeing that most of the Temple was burnt on that day. The Jerusalem Talmudh (Ta’aniyoth 4:6) informs us that certain Hakhamim fasted two days – 9th and 10th – for this reason.
Rabbenu Ya’aqov, son of the Rosh, writes that it is therefore proper not to eat meat (or drink wine) on the night and the day of the 10th (Tur OH 558). Although not a binding Halakha, it seems correct in my eyes to act in accordance with this statement of the Tur. In addition, it is improper to have a large meal on a Friday afternoon in order that one will be eager to eat on Friday night Likhvodh Shabbath – see Rambam’s MT Shabbath 30:4.
In my view you can do one of two things: a) put off the barbecue till Sunday, or b) combine the BBQ with your Shabbath evening meal. Allow me to explain.
One may “bring in Shabbath early”. The Talmudh (Bavli B’rakhoth 27a-b) informs us that many Hakhamim such as R. Y’hudha HaNasi and Rav used to bring in Shabbath early by praying the evening prayer (‘Amidha for Lel Shabbath only) after P’lagh HaMinha – i.e. after 10¾ hours of the day, a ‘day’ being the period from sunrise until sunset, and an ‘hour’ being 1/12 of that time. Q’riyath Sh’ma’ and the B’rakhoth are to be said only after 3 stars have appeared – see Rambam’s MT T’philla 3:7. (There are those who claim that when bringing in Shabbath early one should say all the evening prayers, including Q’riyath Sh’ma’ and the B’rakhoth before sunset. This view is incorrect. It is essential to keep in mind that T’philla, i.e. ‘Amidha, and Q’riyath Sh’ma’ are two separate misswoth.) Having done so one may recite Qiddush and eat the Shabbath evening meal as usual.
Therefore you may make a BBQ, pray the evening T’philla, recite Qiddush, and then have your Shabbath meal with the barbecued meat – all this on 10th Av before sunset.
If you choose to do so, don’t forget to recite Q’riyath Sh’ma’ and the B’rakhoth at night. FYI sunset in NYC today – 10-05-62 (10th Av 5769), 31-07-2009 – is approximately 8:14 pm, and P’lagh HaMinha is approximately 6:44 pm (Daylight Saving Time).
Kol Tuv
Dawidh Bar-Hayim