Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Summer Enhanced by Traditions and Celebrations

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, July 10 / 17

Zack Gross

If Canada Day Celebrations did nothing else this year, they at least served to remind me that summer is here!  As I slide down the other side of the hill, the seasons and significant days seem to whiz by.  And, I must admit, as I do indeed like winter, the things that are most Manitoban about summer – flies and mosquitoes, heat and humidity – are not things I look forward to.

Of course, summer begins at the Solstice, which is usually somewhere around June 21st.  It offers the longest daytime of the year and the days before and after allow us to enjoy outdoor evenings until close to 11 p.m.  When August arrives, we notice the days shortening.  Ron Thompson, longtime CKX weatherman, now passed, used to caution us with his celebration of the summer solstice by saying: Well friends, the days start to get shorter tomorrow!

International Friendship Day is a summertime event, on July 30th.  It was recently adopted by the United Nations, in 2011, to promote peace and harmony globally, but started off as a day to tell your best buddies how much you appreciated them.  Take a moment to consider who your real friends are and also to think about how our troubled word can be more peaceful.  We are, after all, “Friendly Manitoba”!

Of course, the August long weekend is our natural dividing line, the halfway point of summer holidays for students.  For many, the rest of August can be a time of gearing up for the fall, doing back to school shopping, choosing courses, and moving to new homes or jobs. 

For the gardener and farmer, after the long weekend may be the time to bring in the crop, whether fields of wheat or canola, or baskets of tomatoes and cucumbers.  For these folks, it is hardly a time for summer relaxation but rather can be a grueling task of getting product in before rain or frost becomes a factor.

Speaking of time around the Long Weekend, if you’re looking for an excuse to party outdoors, consider Picnic Day on August 5th.  Traditionally, this Australian holiday was created by Chinese railroad workers who toiled mightily in their jobs and for little pay but used the day to celebrate some time off with a family picnic.  Despite their hard work and many challenges, many chose to stay in Australia when their job was done.

Nemoralia was a Roman holiday, celebrated August 13th to 15th, to celebrate the wonderful bounty of the harvest, particularly flowers.  People dressed in flowers, decorated their homes and yards in flowers, and even covered their pets in blankets of flowers.  I’m not sure if mid-August brings out the best in flowers on the Prairies.  It may be too dry and the best may be gone by then, so think about celebrating this one earlier.

To end the summer, around Labour Day, you can celebrate the United Nations designated occasion, International Day of Charity, which coincides with the anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa on September 5th.  Many of us consider September a time of new beginnings, rather than January, so start off the “activity year” right by supporting someone in need.

Related to this, but earlier in the month, August 12th is International Youth Day, an opportunity to celebrate the passion of young people to contribute to their communities and their world.  The UN is currently working with young people to meet global goals around poverty alleviation, gender inequality and improving our environment.  Holding a day like this in mid-summer when school is not in might mean that it gets missed. Maybe a summer camp wants to take it on!

We lose appreciation for many of the basics in life, in our busy, hurried existences.  We focus on our iPhones, on the traffic, on the TV, on our schedule and not enough on the daylight hours, the incoming weather, the close friendships and family, the beauty and bounty of nature, and the challenges that our planet and its people need to take on.  We don’t notice them, or can’t relate to them or we see them as barriers. 

Enjoy the summer!


Zack Gross is a former Executive Director of Brandon’s
The Marquis Project.

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