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Howard Richler
Howard Richler


It’s time for a Sirius holiday, says Howard Richler Add to ...

You may know it as Heritage Day, Natal Day, Simcoe Day, Civic Holiday or something else, depending where you live. This week, The Globe and Mail invites readers and writers to consider a truly national name for the August holiday Monday.

You can share your own ideas for X Day. On the long weekend, we’ll have a look at some of the ones you’ve chosen, plus an essay by Warren Clements on what’s in a holiday name – the people, the controversies and what really resonates.

I’ve been asked in the name of Canadian unity (and, more importantly, consistency) to suggest a name for the August long-weekend holiday that can be used from sea to shining Canadian sea. While I can fathom that interprovincial trade is too much to ask for our fractious nation, surely it’s time to have a name that can be accepted throughout the land to mark this date.

As we’ve seen with our multitudinous constitutional struggles, Canadians are a polite but persnickety lot, and we need some non-controversial term over which we won’t squabble. We largely define ourselves by the province we live in, rather than as Canadians, and can be downright petty. For example, embarrassingly, most Canadians want the other Canadian hockey teams to lose after their own squad has been eliminated from the National Hockey League playoffs. For shame.

Let’s face it: About the only thing Canadians agree on is the weather. Between July 15 and Aug. 15, it is universally accepted from Victoria to St. John’s that our summers are scorching, and we whine about it constantly.

It’s well known that this middle period of summer is referred to as the “dog days.” The term doesn’t actually derive from our lovably languid canine friends. Rather, it’s from the ancient Romans, who called these hot days dies caniculares. This name was derived from the star Sirius, known as the dog star because it’s the brightest in the constellation Canis Major. The Romans observed that the star rose around the same time as the sun at the hottest time of the year.

Q.E.D., it is natural that the holiday midway between the ides of July and August should be called “Dog Day.”

After all, who can resist a barbecued hot dog* and a good Canadian brew on a hot day? Perhaps once this holiday Monday becomes associated with hot dogs and beer, Quebec will come on board and have an annual jour du chien. Qu’est-ce que tu en penses, Madame Marois?

A happy dog day to all Canucks.

* Please regard the barbecued hot dog as a substitute for the ancient Roman practice of sacrificing a brown dog to appease the wrath of Sirius, believed to be the cause of the stifling heat wave.

Howard Richler is the author of How Happy Became Homosexual and Other Mysterious Semantic Shifts.

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