The Dog Days of Summer – by Jenn Stumer, Appalachian Creations, Inc.
June 21st marked the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. The time in the annual orbit that our part of the earth is tilted closest to the sun. Temperatures are finally reaching what we call normal after what seemed like a much-lengthened Spring. Long winter, long spring. Will this be a pattern for our seasons this year? Are we in for extended “Dog Days of Summer?”
Where did the Dog Days of Summer come from anyway? The phrase actually dates back to ancient times. Different groups of people in different parts of the world drew images in the sky by “connecting the dots” of stars. The Chinese saw different images than the Native Americans, who saw different images than the Europeans. These star pictures are now called constellations and are now mapped out in the sky.
Some of the images the constellations make are in the form of animals. For instance Ursa=Bear, Taurus=Bull and Canis=Dog. The brightest of the stars in the Canis Major constellation is Sirius, which also happens to be the brightest star in the night sky.
During late July, Sirius, the “dog star,” rises and sets with the sun. The ancients believed that when it did this, it added its heat to the heat of the sun, creating a stretch of hot and sultry weather. They named this period of time, from 20 days before to 20 days after, “dog days” after the dog star Sirius. Today, because of the gradual drifting of the constellations over time, the dog days occur during the period between July 3 and August 11. Thanks to modern science we all know that the dog star did not actually add heat to anything like the ancients thought. The hot days of summer are a direct result of the earth tilting closer to the sun.
Knowing that the phrase “Dog Days of Summer” has its roots in ancient times doesn’t change the fact that they are upon us! How many times this past harsh winter did we long for just such a change of temperature? The summer season holds all kinds of treasures from family vacations to lazy days lounging pool side to summer projects. Kids enjoy the gift of no school…and the dogs…well they enjoy “dog days of Summer” too!
Rest assured, we are on the downward swing towards shorter days, cooler temperatures and changing seasons. Even if we have an extended summer, before you know it…we will be asking ourselves, “Where did the Summer go?”