Way back, the year had just 10 months. The August we know now was then called Sextilis because it was the sixth month. The calendar was changed. More months were added. August became the eighth month, so the name had to be changed. It was renamed after Augustus Cesar. For those in the north, it means the time when the world is going from summer, into fall, then into winter. For those south of the Equator, it means winter will be over, followed by spring then summer.
August for many means the beginning of harvest festivals. Those really kick in during September and October. A big one in Germany is Oktoberfest. In America, just about the biggest of the entire year is called Thanksgiving.
It’s only August, though … but … so what? August, September and October all have some great and fun days. August even has a Valentine’s Day! That’s Qixi, and is this month’s Story Hour. It’s about a Chinese cow herder and a maiden weaver who fall in love.
AUGUST 1 – LUGHNASDADH
Here’s a fun word. Lughnasadh. In places like Ireland, hopefully the crops are already growing very well. A festival is held to both thank the gods that things good to eat are growing, and to pray that they grow more and more and more. The god associated with all this is named Lugh. It’s also a festival for some fun. The people dance and sing and have games. It’s named after the god Lugh, and basically Lughnasadh means “the day of Lugh.”
AUGUST 2 – ICE CREAM SANDWICH
At least in America, the most common ice cream sandwich is ice cream between two chocolate wafers. It’s not always that way. Many places use sugar wafers. Some use bread (usually rolls). The ice cream can be vanilla, chocolate or just about anything.
AUGUST 3 – WATERMELON
You may not know this (but now you do), the watermelon is actually a kind of berry – usually a very large and juicy berry. One kind that grows in the Kalahari Desert is called tsamma. It’s more than just a treat. It is used to make crossing that desert possible. The tsamma holds enough water and nutrition that a person can survive with just those melons for more than a month. “Normal” watermelons are red inside, although yellow is also common. Do you like it chilled? Cut into pieces or scooped? Maybe in slices?
AUGUST 6 – WIGGLE YOUR TOES
This is one of Danny’s favorite holidays. He loves to wiggle his toes anyway, but Nicker doesn’t have toes. Danny can wiggle and giggle. It’s a loving tease, though. Gordie … well, the rule is that if you’re around Gordie the Tortie, you at least wear sock. If you have bare toes, he will be chasing your feet. Maybe he thinks they are grapes? Maybe that makes this “Wiggle Your Grapes Day?” Even if you don’t have your own Gordie, you can take off your shoes and socks and pretend to Wiggle Your Grapes … er, Toes.
AUGUST 7 – LIGHTHOUSE
Sailing in the ocean or sea has always been dangerous. Or you sail out too far, the land disappears. Old maps show “UNKNOWN” with drawings of fierce beasts because so many ships disappeared. Something had to happen to them. Something did. They got lost. They couldn’t see land and didn’t know where to go. Closer to land, there are things like reefs and rocks. Besides, the sailors needed help to see the land at all, especially at night. One way to do that was to build lighthouses. They could be on the shore to say, ‘Here we are,” or they could be a signal to “Stay away.”
AUGUST 8 – CAT
Later this month is another Dog Day – but this is another Cat Day. They can be such goofy animals. Some don’t like cats, yet there are more cats in America than dogs. This is a good time to learn about cats – cats of all sizes, from the tiny Nubinese to the large lion. The fastest land animal is a cat, called the cheetah. One of most ferocious is the tiger. Then there is the pussy cat that purrs itself to sleep on your lap.
AUGUST 9 – BOOK LOVERS
So much has gone electronic. Books on a computer screen. These are great. Reading is great. No one knows for sure but most think the first books were flat chunks of stone with the letters carved into them with some kind of chisel. Eventually, paper was invented. One way was to hammer something called papyrus into sheets. Another was to soak fibers in water then squeeze out the water and let the sheets dry. Then, of course, ink had to be invented. Then pens and brushes. That was a LOT of work so type was invented. A piece of wood or whatever was formed into a shape that could be put in the ink and make that same form over and over and over. At first this was done as an entire page. The idea came that the various letters didn’t have to be carved new each time, they could be moved around. It was called “moveable type.” Soon came the printing press, and instead of working all day to make one sheet, you could spend an hour and make a thousand sheets. And then … WE HAD BOOKS! Books cheap enough that everyone could have BOOKS!
AUGUST 10 – S’MORES
The s’more gets its name because it is so tasty that people want “s’more!” There are different ways to make them. The classic way is with a campfire. A marshmallow is roasted on a stick. A graham cracker gets a piece of chocolate bar. The hot, melty marshmallow goes on that and another graham cracker goes on top as a sort of sandwich. (Be careful. It’s HOT!) That’s the tradition, but don’t be afraid to try another way. Even from a microwave you might be asking for s’more!
AUGUST 12 – ELEPHANT
The largest land animal today is the elephant. Many think they came from the wooly mammoth. There are two main types – African and Indian (from India). They are big, and strong, and so are used in some places to do heavy work.
AUGUST 13 – LEFT-HANDER’S
Most people use their right hand for things like writing and drawing. This day is set aside for those who use their left hand. Which hand do you like to use for most things. If you are like most, you use your right hand. Have some fun on this day and use your left hand.
AUGUST 14-15 – VJ DAY
World War 2 was a terrible time. Germany wanted to take over all of Europe, and Italy had the idea of rebuilding the Roman Empire. Meanwhile, Japan wanted all of Asia and all the Pacific Islands, and had their eyes on taking over America. In the middle was Russia, and they wanted everything, too. Not everyone can have everything all at the same time (and shouldn’t at ANY time). This caused a world war. VE Day (Victory in Europe) came earlier. The first atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. That eventually brought VJ Day (Victory in Japan). Get a map and find Japan. Look at all the islands. Find Hawaii and Pearl Harbor, where the war with Japan officially began.
AUGUST 15 – HONEYBEE
These are such amazing insects! Without them, we’d be in big trouble. Bees go from plant to plant to gather nectar and pollen. They bring this back to hive where it is turned into things like honey. That’s good to eat, but more important as this is happening the plants get pollinated. If that didn’t happen, the plants wouldn’t grow. There’s not much we eat that doesn’t need bees in some way. However, they have a stinger. You have to be careful – not fearful, just careful.
AUGUST 19 – AVIATION
People have always wanted to fly. There are stories like that of Icarus. He flew too high with wings held together by wax. The hot sun melted the wax and he fell to his death. Eventually gliders were developed, but those were a one-way trip “downhill.” Hot air balloons were developed that could go up and down. Now we have jets that can go faster than the speed of sound, Even some aircraft that, with the help of rockets, can go all the way into space and come back.
AUGUST 20 – QIXI, CHINESE VALENTINE’S DAY
A very long ago, a fairy princess who would weave the clouds in the sky looked down and saw handsome cow herder. They fell in love, married, and had two children. Her mother, the goddess of the sky, was very angry. She was so angry that she threw them at different parts of the heaven, then made a river between so they could never be together. The magpies of the world got together to form a bridge. It was the seventh hour or the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese calendar. You can read more of this in Story Hour.
AUGUST 21 – SENIOR CITIZENS
Do you have a neighbor, or a relative, who is old? Usually, “senior citizen” means someone who is 65 or older. They’ve been around longer than you have. They have seen things, done things, experienced things you haven’t. Yet. Go read ”Tom’s Time Machine.”
AUGUST 22 – TOOTH FAIRY (also 2-28)
There are many tales about the tooth fairy. Most are wonderful tales. When you lose a tooth as a child, and you do, the tooth fairy somehow knows. Often this fairy comes in during the night to get the tooth and will leave something for you.
AUGUST 24 – VESUVIUS
Up here on the surface we have hot days, and we have cold days. We have dry times, and rain. Deeper down things are always hot, so hot that the rock is melted. Down there it is called magma, and if it breaks through to the surface it is called lava. Sometimes it comes out slowly. Sometimes it’s more like an explosion. That is usually called a volcano. In 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted. It blew up. It wasn’t just lava, though. Millions of tons of hot dust, and millions of tons of hot poisonous gas, came out.
AUGUST 26 – DOG
We had Cat Day (August 8), now it’s the dog’s tail … I mean, turn. Do you have a dog? Danny has four (and a cat – and a giant tortoise – but there isn’t a Sulcata Tortoise Day, yet). Today is for the doggies. Many believe that dogs were the first domesticated animals. That means the first who actually liked to be around humans.
AUGUST 30 – TOASTED MARSHMALLOW, FRANKENSTEIN
Coming fairly soon is Halloween. One popular costume is Frankenstein … except that’s not Frankenstein. To be Frankenstein you have to dress up as a scientist. Frankenstein was the scientist who created, or built, the monster. He used … uh, spare parts … to put it together. Then he blasted it with electricity to make it come to life. The story was written by Mary Shelly. It was part of a friendly contest. Now it is known by just about everyone.
This Month’s Story Hour
You know what time it is now, right? It’s Story Hour! This is a special tale about Qixi – A Chinese Valentine’s Story.