There is no such season as “Indian Summer” but if you live in the U.S. you have probably heard the expression used around this time of the year. The U.S. National Weather Service defines this as weather conditions that are sunny and clear with above normal temperatures, occurring late-September to mid-November.
Indian summer has become the way to describe a period of unseasonably warm, dry weather in autumn that feels like summer. It is especially used when we have a warm period after a killing frost when we assumed autumn was giving us a taste of winter.
But why call it Indian summer?
In the late 1800s, an American lexicographer named Albert Matthews tried to find out who coined the expression. The earliest reference he found in print was a letter from 1778, but from the context it was clear that the expression was already in widespread use.
It is supposed that the origin came from areas inhabited by Native Americans (“Indians”) and that Indians first described this weather oddity to Europeans as something that occurred most years.
The expression has traveled beyond American borders. In British English, the term is used in the same way as in North America. Originally, it referred to America but it gained wider currency in Great Britain in the 1950s. In the U.K,. this period is also associated with the autumn feast days of St. Martin and Saint Luke.
You can view Indian summer as a cruel weather tease that reminds you of the summer days that are gone, or as a happy respite from the cooler “normal” weather of that time and the days to come. I prefer the latter, though when Indian summer ends, I tend to go with the former.
Indian Summer is a romantic notion that has inspired a number of songs. Some of the better known examples:
- In 1969, Brewer & Shipley recorded ″Indian Summer″ for their ″Weeds″ album.
- In 1970 The Doors recorded ″Indian Summer.″
- In 1975, Joe Dassin recorded “Indian Summer” in French, English and Spanish and “L’Été indien” went on to become his biggest hit, selling almost 2 million copies worldwide – but the lyrics are about a summer in India, so…
- In 1977 Poco released the album, Indian Summer, which also contained the title track.
- In 1978 Joe Walsh recorded “Indian Summer” for the album But Seriously, Folks…
- U2 included “Indian Summer Sky” on their The Unforgettable Fire album.
- The Dream Academy recorded the song “Indian Summer” for the album Remembrance Days in 1987
- Tori Amos released “Indian Summer” on her 2004 EP, Scarlet’s Hidden Treasures.
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