There are a little over 40 days to go until summer officially begins in the United States, 42 days to be specific as of this post. If 42 days is too far away for you, then maybe you’re the type of person who gets excited for Memorial Day weekend which is widely considered to be the kick off for summer.
Every year Memorial Day weekend brings with it parades, cookouts, baseball games, sometimes chilly trips to the beach, bon fires, and the ability once again for men to wear polos, shorts, and flip flops in public without fearing that they’ll be mistaken for a lost member of the local frat house.
Memorial Day parades and cookouts are pretty common ways that most of the United States ushers in some of its nicest weather throughout the year. There are other various traditions throughout the world which are celebrated in order to commemorate warmer weather and the ability to spend more time outdoor around the globe.
Take France for example, France has several traditional summer holidays, none of them quite the unofficial beginning that Memorial Day stands in as in the US, however, they are just as important. There is St. Médard’s Day in order to celebrate its namesake, the patron saint of rain. It is most important to the agricultural calendars of France as it designates the beginning of the major harvests. A French tradition holds that
"S'il pleut le jour de St Médard (8 Juin), il pleuvra 40 jours plus tard / a moins que St Barnabé (11 Juin) ne lui coupe l'herbe sous les pieds."
Translated, this means
"If it rains on St Médard’s day, it will still be raining 40 days later / Unless St Barnaby cuts the grass out from under his feet."
Huh? Well, it turns out there are many variations of this rhyme, most of them mean that if there is a day of bad weather on the 8th of June, there may very well be a spell of inclement weather in the forecast, this spell can only be broken if the is a good day of weather on the 11th of June.
Then there is Bastille Day on the 14th of July. Formally it is known as La Fête Nationale and it commemorates the Fête de la Fédération, a giant feast that was held after the storming of the Bastille on the 14th of July in 1789, this is a day that is viewed by many as the day that modern France was born. It is often commemorated with military parades, fireworks, concerts, and a variety of similar events.
Almost 5000 miles to the East there are different traditions being celebrated such as the Dragon Boat Festival, typically held in June. There are plenty of various legends explaining how this festival came to be, the most common of these is in regards to Qu Yuan.
Qu Yuan was a minister of the State of Chu as well as one of China’s first poets. He was a man who loved his country fiercely and wanted the nation to fight against the Qin State in order to keep in it the form it was in during his lifetime. He was greatly opposed for this and eventually exiled by King Huai. In exile, he composed some of his most famous work including; Li Sao (The Lament), Tian Wen (Heavenly Questions) and Jiu Ge (Nine Songs). When news reached Qu Yuan that Chu had fallen to the Qin, he threw himself into the Miluno River, grasping onto a large stone in order to drown himself. Soon after people searched the river for his body, going up and down it on their boats, throwing zonzi and eggs into the water to distract the fish and shrimp from devouring Qu Yuan’s body as well as pouring wine into the river in order to make sure all of the animals in it were drunk and would not disturb Qu Yuan’s body. Today customs to celebrate this holiday include racing dragon boats up and down the river while eating zongzi and drinking wine.
Our own summer traditions are fairly similar to the rest of the world’s various celebrations. Parades featuring our service men and women riding on floats and waving Memorial Day flags, bike flags bobbing up and down hills as the bikes they are attached to race along throughout the long summer days, ice cream at the beach, hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, and fireworks to mark an assortment of different causes for celebration.
Make sure you check back in a few weeks as we take a closer look at a few other summer traditions and holidays throughout the world.