The Month of August: holidays, falling stars and folklore11 min read
“Summer declines and roses have grown rare,
But cottage crofts are gay with hollyhocks,
And in old garden walks you breathe an air
Fragrant of pinks and August-smelling stocks.”
—John Todhunter (1839-1916)
What do we celebrate in this month?
August is the time to reap what you’ve sown, quite literally even, as most summer vegetables are ready to be harvested. In fact for us it brings the best bounty of the season, including ripened tomatoes, melons and watermelons, sweet corn on the cob, and zucchini. Canning season is here, too.
August was named to honor the first Roman emperor (and grandnephew of Julius Caesar), Augustus Caesar (63 B.C..–A.D. 14).
It is the eighth month of the year and the sixth month of the Roman calendar.
The Romans called the month Sextilis, which not by chance means sixth, but eight years before Jesus was born the name of the month was changed to Augustus in honour of the Roman Emperor.
The Anglo-Saxons called it Weod monath, which means Weed month, because it is the month when weeds and otehr plants grow most repidly.
August 1, traditionally known as Lammas Day, was a festival to mark the annual wheat and corn harvest. It also marked the mid-point between the summer solstice and autumn equinox, and was a cross-quarter day. The name comes from an Anglo-Saxon word Hlafmaesse which means Loaf Mass. The festival of Lammas marks the beginning of the harvest, when people go to church to give thanks for the first corn to be cut. According to popular folklore “After Lammas Day, corn ripens as much by night as by day.”
August 5 is a Civic Holiday in parts of Canada, but August 5 is also the Feast Day of St. Oswald in Northern England. St. Oswald was a Northumbrian warrior king and champion of Christianity. He was killed at Maserfield near Hexham, in 642 in a battle with Penda, the heathen king of Mercia. Penda ordered that Oswald’s body be dismembered and the head and hands nailed up to separate crosses as a sacrifice to Odin and as a warning to other Christians. Oswald’s head can now be found in St. Cuthbert’s tomb in Durham Cathedral. Legend says that his hand did not wither even after death, reminding us of God’s eternal reward for Christian Charity. The uncorrupted arm was stolen by the monks of Peterborough Abbey and remained as one of the monastery’s most prized possessions, until lost or destroyed at the Reformation.
August 9 starts the Islamic New Year, or the First of Muharram, beginning at sundown. Traditionally, it begins at the first sighting of the lunar crescent after the new Moon.
August 10 is St. Lawrence’s Day, and according to popular folklore, a fair weather on this day presages a fair autumn.
August 11 marks the end of the Dog Days of Summer, which began on July 3.
August 15 is the Feast of the Assumption, the principal feast of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, to celebrate her departure from this life and the assumption of her body into heaven (the day that Mary was received into heaven). Religion apart, it’s also Ferragosto, in Italy.
Cat Nights begin on August 17.
This term harks back to the days when people believed in witches. A rather obscure old Irish legend said that a witch could turn herself into a cat eight times, but on the ninth time (August 17), she couldn’t regain her human form. This bit of folklore also gives us the saying that cat has nine lives. Not by chance in August nights continue to get longer and cats, crepuscular creatures, are nocturnal hunters. And their superior night vision means that the nights belong to them.
August 19 brings National Aviation Day, chosen for the birthday of Orville Wright who piloted the first recorded flight of a powered heavier-than-air machine in 1903.
August 24 is St. Bartholomew Day.
One of the original 12 Apostles, in England, many fairs were held on this day, including the famous St. Bartholomew Fair in Smithfield. Eventually, the saint’s feast day appeared in weather lore, such as “At St. Bartholomew, there comes cold dew,” or “As Bartholomew’s Day, so the whole autumn.” After this date, thunderstorms were said to be more violent.
August 26 is Women’s Equality Day, which celebrates the 1920 ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment and, with it, women’s right to vote in the United States.
But this wasn’t enough, history apart and just for fun, August 1-7 is International Clown Week, while August 3 is National Watermelon Day. Moreover, August 5-11 is National Smile Week, and don’t forget to smile!
And did you known that on August 6, 1762, the first-ever sandwich was created?
At least with such a name: It was named after the Earl of Sandwich when he requested a dish involving meat between two pieces of bread. As the story goes, he requested it as he was in the middle of a gambling game and didn’t want to interrupt it.
About August 8, national sneak some zucchini onto your neighbors’ porch day…but don’t ask me why.
August 10 is National S’mores Day. S’mores are the one of the most popular North American desserts, made with graham crackers, melted chocolate and sticky toasted marshmallows, all in one little sandwich. In fact it is estimated that over 50 million pounds of marshmallows are toasted over a fire in North America each year!
August 12 is Vinyl Record Day
August 13 is International Left-Handers Day while, in the USA, August 16 is National Rum Day.
August 17 is International Geocaching Day, but also World Honeybee Day, while August 19 is National Potato Day, and August 20 is World Mosquito Day.
August 22 is Pecan Torte Day, while August 25 marks Kiss-and-Make-Up Day as well as National Banana Split Day, and August 29 is National Lemon Juice Day.
What a month!
About astrology, August’s full moon, the full Sturgeon Moon, reaches peak illumination on the night of Thursday, August 11, 2022.
But don’t forget that August is a wonderful month for star gazing, August is often a wonderful month for star gazing! It’s the month of the Perseid meteor shower, which is one of the most prolific showers and reaches its maximum between August 11 and 13. This year, however, the best of the Perseids occurs at the same time as the full Moon, which means that the Moon’s brightness will likely wash out many of the falling stars!
Luckily, you can still see the Perseids even if they’re not at their peak, as the shower lasts from about July 23 to August 22, so for the best chance of catching the Perseids, keep an eye out in early August or around the 20th!
August’s birth flowers are the gladiolus and the poppy. The first symbolizes strength of character, sincerity, and generosity, while poppy symbolizes eternal sleep, oblivion, but also imagination. Both symbolize remembrance.
Gladiolus, a symbol of strength and love, provides height to the garden and a splash of much-needed color in the final full month of the summer season.
It is a member of the Iris family (Iridaceae) and is native to Africa, the Mediterranean, and southern Europe, with more than 300 species that come in a range of vibrant colors.
Also known as “sword lily,” it got its name from the sword-like appearance of its leaves. Not by chance, “Gladiolus” itself comes from the Latin word gladius, meaning “sword.” The stalks appear in early summer, while in mid- to late summer, the trumpet-shaped flowers bloom, opening from the bottom up. Colors include white, pink, red, purple, and yellow, among many others.
The flower has long been a symbol of strength, victory, healing, and honor. It has also been associated with moral character, remembrance, and intelligence.
In Victorian times, more romantics believed that the beauty of the gladiolus could pierce another’s heart with love. In floral meanings, the flower also came to symbolize infatuation, love at first sight, and faithfulness.
Each color has different meaning: red symbolizes love, romance, and passion; pink compassion and a mother’s love; white for innocence and purity; yellow symbolizes friendship and joy, and purple means fortune and beauty.
In addition to being one of the August birth flowers, the gladiolus is traditionally given as a gift for 40th anniversaries.
Historically, the first South African species was brought to Europe in the mid-18th century.
In ancient Rome, the gladiolus was known as the flower of the gladiators, with spectators covering the winner of the fight in the colorful blooms.
It became popular in the U.S. around the turn of the 20th century, which led to the creation of the American Gladiolus Society in Boston in 1910.
The poppy, known above all for its red color and made famous by a poem written more than a century ago, has long been associated with those lost during times of war.
Member of the Papaveraceae family, they grow all over the world, including the temperate climates of Eurasia, Africa, and North America. The most recognizable poppy species are the Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule), Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale), and California poppy (Eschscholzia californica).
They vary in size quite a bit, but generally have delicate yet showy flowers of four to six petals surrounding many stamens, that grow on long, hairy stalks. The flower buds are initially bent down before turning up as they open.
The poppy’s name comes from the Latin word pappa, meaning milk. In fact, the stalks and buds of some poppy species produce a milky, latex-like substance when cut. Most notably, the sap of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) has been harvested for use in pharmaceutical opiates and illicit drugs, while in home gardens, the poppy is more commonly grown for its seeds, which can be used in cooking and baking.
In any case, in addition to being a long time symbol of remembrance, poppies have long been associated with sleep and death, and they also symbolize relaxation and recovery.
In Greco-Roman myths, the flowers were part of offerings to the dead and poppies are found on tombstones to represent eternal sleep.
According to Greek mythology, the poppy was associated with Demeter, the goddess of agriculture. It was believed if poppies grew in your field, a bountiful crop would follow.
In ancient Greece, poppies were associated with Hypnos, the god of sleep, Thanatos (death), and Morpheus (dreams).
It is believed that poppy flowers will help you remember your loved ones who have passed.
The poppy is also the state flower of California.
Historically, Canadian poet John McCrae, who served as a military physician during World War I, penned the famous poem, “In Flanders Field,” in 1915 that begins with the line:
“In Flanders Field the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row.”
This led to the association between the poppy and those lost in battle.
In European cemeteries where soldiers were buried from World War I, disturbing the soil caused poppies to grow from seeds that had been dormant for years.
L. Frank Baum includes poppies also in world popular “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” creating a field of the flowers that causes Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, and Toto to fall asleep on their journey to the Emerald City.
On Remembrance Day, November 11, citizens all around Britain and other former Commonwealth countries wear paper crimson poppies to honor those lost in battle.
Its symbol of remembrance is recognized in many cultures around the world.
August’s primary birthstone is peridot, which is said to symbolize strength and healing power, protecting its wearer from nightmares and evil, ensuring harmony and happiness.
It is said that babies born in August are lucky to be guarded by peridot’s good fortune.
Peridot is the rare gem-quality form of the mineral olivine that appears in various shades of green, sometimes with a brown or yellow tinge. Also called “evening emerald,” it is formed deep inside the earth’s mantle and is brought to the surface by volcanoes.
In Hawaii, peridot symbolizes the tears of Pele, the volcano goddess of fire who controls the flow of lava.
Meanwhile, the Egyptians called peridot the “gem of the Sun” and believed it had special healing powers, as they believed it protected those who wore it from the terrors of the night. Egyptian priests believed it held the power of nature, using goblets encrusted with peridots to communicate with nature gods.
It is unclear where the name “peridot” originated. Some believe it is derived from the Arabic faridat, meaning “gem,” or from the Greek word, peridona, which means “give in abundance.”
Given its resemblance to the color of money, peridot has often been associated also with prosperity and good fortune.
Some strung the peridot on donkey hair and tied it around their left arms in an attempt to ward off evil spirits.
Peridots were also seen as a way to help with respiratory ailments, insomnia, and bleeding. At one time, it was also thought to improve memory and ease labor and delivery.
For years, peridot beads and talismans were believed to offer protection, as well as promote love, happiness, and wealth.
Peridots were first recorded on Topazios, a small island in the Red Sea now known as St. John’s Island or Zabargad Island. Pliny the Elder, an ancient Roman naturalist, is among those who have written about the island and its gemstones.
A previous birthstone for this month was sardonyx, which is characterized by alternating bands of sard and onyx, both forms of chalcedony.
Despite it can appear in several colors, it is usually reddish and white. It is thought to bring courage, happiness, and eloquence.
In ancient times, Greeks and Romans wore sardonyx into battle, and It would be engraved with images of gods because they believed the stone could harness bravery and provide courage and protection.
Sardonyx was also thought to invoke happiness and clear communication. Others believed a sardonyx gemstone in each corner of your home would provide protection against evil.
Historically, it has been used in seals and signet rings, as wax would not stick to the sardonyx.
According to the legend, Queen Elizabeth I once gave the Earl of Essex a ring made of sardonyx, pledging her aid if he was ever in need. Later on, when accused of treason and scheduled for execution, he tried to send the ring to her but an enemy intercepted it. The queen learned of his plea only years later, after he had been beheaded.
According to popular folklore, observe on what day in August the first heavy fog occurs, and expect a hard frost on the same day in October.
But also… so many August fogs, so many winter mists!
And don’t forget that, If the first week of August is unusually warm, the winter will be white and long!
In any case, for our readers in the northern hemisphere – get outside and enjoy the last days of summer, you’ll regret not doing so come winter!
And, for our southern friends, rejoice!
It’s not long now until the first flowers begin to bud.
Images from web – Google Research