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The Month of July: holidays, folklore and traditions

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Originally written on July 2021, updated 2023

Traditionally, July is the month that seems to be dedicated to freedom, independence, and celebrations of countries and culture.
It is named after Roman dictator Julius Caesar (100 B.C.–44 B.C.), after his death. Julius Caesar, born on July 12, made one of his greatest contribution to history: with the help of Sosigenes, he developed the Julian calendar, the precursor to the Gregorian calendar we use still today.
July is one of the hottest months of the year, and it is the seventh month of the year according to the Gregorian calendar. It was the fifth month in the early calendar of the ancient Romans and, not by chance, they called it Quintilius, which means fifth.
The Anglo-Saxon names for the month included Heymonath or Maed monath, referring respectively to haymaking and the flowering of meadows.

Its celebrations iclude July 1, Canada Day, a Canadian federal holiday that celebrates the creation of the Dominion of Canada in 1867. In short, this federal statutory holiday, it celebrates the anniversary of Canadian Confederation which occurred on July 1, 1867, with the passing of the Constitution Act, 1867 where the three separate colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick were united into a single Dominion within the British Empire called Canada.
Originally called Dominion Day (French: Le Jour de la Confédération), the holiday was renamed in 1982 when the Canadian Constitution was patriated by the Canada Act 1982.

July 3 brings the start of the hot and sultry Dog Days of Summer! Read more here.

July 4 is Independence Day in the U.S., that celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

July 14 is Bastille Day, which commemorates the storming of the Bastille and the start of the French Revolution.

July 15 is St Swithin’s Day. According to an ancient tradition, if it rains on this day, it will rain for the next 40 days. The story began in the year 971, when the bones of St Swithin (who had died over 100 years before) were moved to a special shrine at Winchester Cathedral, and there was a terrific storm that lasted for 40 days. People said that the saint in heaven was weeping because his bones had been moved.

July 19 in Piddinghoe, Sussex, is Little Edith’s Treat. Children there enjoy a special tea and sports on this day. The custom began in 1868, when a baby called Edith Croft died. Edith’s grandmother put up the money for a treat for the village children in Edith’s memory.

July 20 is St Margaret’s Day. St Margaret was once a very popular saint, and she had the nickname of St Peg. People believed that doing honour to Peg would bring them God’s protection against illnesses and evil spirits. St Peg’s day was traditionally celebrated with a plum pudding called Heg Peg Dump.

July 25, in occasion of Ebernoe Horn Fair at Ebernoe, Sussex, a ram is roasted and a cricket match is played between Ebernoe and a nearby village. The ram’s horns are presented to the batsman who makes the most runs.
July 25 is also St James’ Day, also known as Grotto Day. On this day children used to make grottoes and caves and decorate them with sea shells because the scallop shell is supposed to be the emblem of St. James.

July 29 marks Islamic New Year, which begins with the first sighting of the crescent Moon after the new Moon in the month of Muharram. This event signals the start of the Islamic lunar calendar year.

July 31 is start of oyster season. It is said that if you eat oysters today, you’ll have plenty of money during the year to come!

But don’t forget that July is also National Watermelon Month, while July 7–13 is the National Farriers Week!

More fun things to celebrate this July?
July 8 is International Town Criers Day, while July 17 World Emoji Day (really?). Intended to celebrate emoji, in the years since the earliest observance, it has become a popular date to make product or other announcements and releases relating to emoji. It seems that World Emoji Day is the brainchild of Jeremy Burge, which stated that the London-based founder of Emojipedia created it, in 2014, based on the way the calendar emoji is shown on iPhones.
Jul 20–28: National Moth Week, while July 22 is Spooner’s Day, which celebrates “Spoonerisms”, those tongue slips that most of us make all the time. Literally, a Spoonerism is the name for the instance where you switch the first letters of words around as you talk. For instance if you say “swy flotter” instead of “fly swatter” or “runny babbit” instead of “bunny rabbit”. They got their name from Reverend W. A. Spooner, who was famous for making this mistake often. Well, on this day you can celebrate by refusing to be embarrassed when you misspeak even if, like Spooner, you should always embrace your quirks every day.
July 25 National Day of the Cowboy, on the fourth Saturday in July, and, if this wasn’t enough, on July 27 take your houseplants for a walk day! And don’t ask me why…

In 2023 July’s full Moon, the full Buck Moon, occurs after sunset on Monday, July 3—the eve of Independence Day, reaching peak illumination at 7:39 A.M. Eastern Time.
It will be below the horizon at that time, so plan to look towards the southeast after sunset to watch it rise into the sky, and this is also a supermoon that will appear bigger and brighter than average.
But why is it called the Buck Moon?

Always about astrology, July 4 is the time of aphelion, when Earth is the farthest it will get from the Sun for the entire year—specifically, we’ll be 94,509,598 miles away from our bright star!

Another highlight of the July sky is the “Summer Triangle.
The three “stars of summer” which make up the triangle are Vega, Altair, and Deneb and, year after year and century after century, star gazers and enthusiasts have celebrated its return.
The three stars appear similar in brightness: Vega, in the constellation Lyra, is the brightest of the trio and the 5th brightest of all stars. In Carl Sagan’s novel “Contact”, it is the source of the first message ever received from an alien civilization. The 1997 movie version features actress Jodie Foster’s quest for the senders of the message. Back in the real world, we’ve yet to hear anything from the possible inhabitants of the Vega system, but researchers are listening to Vega and thousands of other stars every day, just in case.
Altair, in Aquila (the Eagle), is another Hollywood star: in the 1956 movie “Forbidden Planet”, the fourth planet in the Altair system (Altair IV) is home to the relics of an ancient alien civilization and to an eccentric Earth scientist and his beautiful daughter.
In any case, Altair is the 2nd brightest member of the Summer Triangle and 13th brightest star of all, but we don’t know if it is surrounded by any planets, so Altair IV may or may not exist.
Number three in the Summer Triangle (and 20th brightest star) is Deneb, which marks the tail of Cygnus (the Swan).
I’m sorry, but Deneb has never starred in a major movie, but it has other claims to fame. If Vega and Altair are relatively close to us in astronomical terms, 25 and 17 light-years respectively, Deneb is much farther away, an estimated 2,600 light-years from our planet! And recall that a light-year is the distance light travels in one year, so a big, really big number.

And if the three stars of the Summer Triangle appear to be about equal in brightness, remember that looks can be deceiving: Deneb is more than 100 times farther from us than Vega or Altair, yet it appears nearly as bright. How can this be? Due its actual (or intrinsic brightness) that is much greater than the others. In fact, Deneb is one of the most luminous of all stars, with an astounding 200,000 times brighter than our Sun.
Interestingly, once you’ve spotted the Summer Triangle, you can use it to find other sights: the largest and most prominent asterism associated with the Triangle is the Northern Cross, comprised of the brightest stars in Cygnus.
Smaller and less prominent, but quite striking, is the little Parallelogram which hangs just below blazing Vega in Lyra, while Sagitta the Arrow is a dim but beautiful constellation that sits at the upper left of Altair. It’s one of the smallest constellations, and it really does look like a little arrow.
Just below Sagitta and similar in size is tiny Delphinus, the Dolphin.

Astrology apart, July’s birth flowers are the larkspur and water lily.

The larkspur, especially white forms, generally indicates lightheartedness, if pink, fickleness, if purple, first love.
It is a member of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) and is native to parts of the Mediterranean, Africa, and Europe. They grow wild in the United States and Europe, and have become naturalized in gardens all over the world.
The larkspur is believed to have received its name from the resemblance to the claw of the meadowlark, and It has also been referred to as Lark’s Claw, Knight’s Spur, and Lark’s Heel.
While it is beautiful to look at and a welcome addition to any garden, the larkspur is highly poisonous to humans and animals if ingested.
The larkspur has long symbolized positivity, loving bonds, dedication, and sincerity, but It can also be used to describe lightheartedness and youth.
Each larkspur color holds a different meaning.
Blue, which is hard to find in the world of flowers, means dignity and grace, pink symbolizes fickleness, white represents happiness and joy, while purple is a sign of first love.
According to Greek mythology, this flowers grew from the blood of Ajax during the Battle of Troy. Upset that he did not receive the armor of the fallen warrior Achilles, Ajax threw himself on his sword, causing his blood to spill onto the ground and the flowers to bloom.
Other theories surrounding its initial appearance involve a slayed dragon and the mixture of its blue blood and venom, as well as crumbs from the blue sky falling to the ground.
Interestingly, in England, people once sprinkled larkspur in baths for protection against ghosts and magic.
In Transylvania, if larkspur was planted near stables, it was believed to keep witches away while, in ancient Greece, larkspurs were used to treat open wounds.
The Victorian era gave rise to the belief that the larkspur could ward off evil.
Once it was naturalized in the U.S., Native Americans used the blooms to make dyes and repel insects.

The water lily symbolizes purity of heart.
They belong to the Nymphaeaceae family, they are perennials and come in two varieties, hardy and tropical.
Tropical water lilies are larger, and more fragrant, available in a wide assortment of colors, and have longer blooms. They come in two different blooming habits: day blooming, where flowers open mid-morning and close by late afternoon, and night blooming, where they open at dusk and close the next morning.
Hardy water lilies are day blooming.
The flowers of the water lily, which come in classic white as well as several other options, have traditionally symbolized purity, innocence, and chastity.
Pink water lilies signify joy and friendship, red means passion and romance, blue represents calm and wisdom, and yellow symbolizes energy and new beginnings.
In Buddhism and Hinduism, water lilies are said to represent resurrection and rebirth because the flowers open and close each day. Buddhists also believe water lilies symbolize enlightenment because the beautiful flowers emerge from the dark and dirty floor beneath the surface of the water.
In Greek legends, nymphs are the protectors of water, so it’s fitting that the water lily’s botanical family name, Nymphaeaceae, is derived from these female divinities.
According to one Egyptian legend, the creation of the gods began from a blue water lily.
Some nuns and monks were known to crush the root of water lilies and use it as an anaphrodisiac , but It has also been used as a painkiller, anti-inflammatory, and sedative, as well as a treatment for insomnia and anxiety.
French painter Claude Monet was quite captivated by the water lilies in his home garden. He spent years painting the flowers on his Giverny, France, property and created more than 200 paintings with these subject!
The water lily is the national flower of Bangladesh.

The July birthstone is the ruby, which is believed to protect its wearer from evil.
It name is derived from the Latin rubeus, which means, not by chance, “red.” The ruby’s color is due to the presence of chromium, which also makes the gem subject to cracks.
The gem was once thought to protect warriors if worn on their armor or embedded in their skin. Some, in fact, went as far as inserting the gems into their flesh, believing it created invincibility.
Considered the king of gems, the ruby symbolizes love, passion, energy, and success.
The ruby has become also a symbol of love and commitment. It was once thought to protect against misfortune and illness.
Early cultures treasured the gem, believing that it held the power of life due to its color association with blood. It has also been thought to remedy bleeding and inflammation, and increase body warmth.
If rubies were offered to the god Krishna, ancient Hindus believed he would grant them rebirth as an emperor. Long ago, locals thought possession of rubies would allow them to live in peace with their enemies. It was thought wearing a ruby on your heart side would allow you to live peacefully.
Some legends associated rubies with an inextinguishable flame that could shine through clothing and hold an ability to boil water.
The ruby is also given as a traditional gift for 15th and 40th wedding anniversaries.
As early as 200 B.C., records have suggested that rubies were traded along the North Silk Road in China.
But where are rubies found in nature?
They are created well below the Earth’s surface under extreme heat and pressure. Oxygen and aluminum atoms, when compressed, create corundum. The presence of chromium gives the gem its red appearance.
Burma (Myanmar) produces the majority of the world’s rubies, and the finest in the world as well. Other locations around the world that produce rubies include Sri Lanka, Thailand, Mozambique, and to a small extent, the United States.

And don’t forget that, in July, summer bugs are at their best (or worst, as the case may be)!
According to popular folklore, “Ne’er trust a July sky”, and, “If ant hills are high on this month, the coming winter will be hard!”.
Other folklore includes that:
“If the first of July it be rainy weather,
‘Twill rain more or less for four weeks together”.
As July, so next January!

Images from web – Google Research

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