This post is inspired by my fellow blogger, Aquinas Wired, who writes the Quark in the Road. You can read his wonderful post, here.
We call these warm fall days Indian Summer, but what does that term mean, and where did it come from?
Both the Old Farmers Almanac and the National Weather Service define Indian Summer as a brief spell of unseasonably warm, hazy weather in October or November, after the first hard frost of the season. Even without a frost, though, mild autumn days have a summery feel to them.
Native Americans were very aware of the warm days before the winter cold set in. This was a time to prepare for the winter. It was also hunting season. The first full moon after the harvest moon (the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox) is often called the Hunter's Moon. About this time, the constellation Orion, the Hunter, appears again in our sky. This constellation has been interpreted as a human figure in many cultures.
Many believe the earliest reference to the term Indian Summer is from a letter dated January 17, 1778 by J H St. John de Crevecoeur, a French-American farmer. You can read more about it here.
Perhaps the most familiar reference to Indian Summer for Chicagoans may be "Injun Summer" by John T. McCutcheon, which first appeared in the Chicago Tribune in 1907, and was reprinted every fall for years. It was discontinued because it was considered offensive to Native Americans, but I have a link to it here.
If the shorter days of autumn and the falling leaves remind us of the impermanence of things, the warm Indian Summer days are even more fleeting. Enjoy them while they last!
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