Still a little time to enjoy summer

Published 10:58 am Thursday, August 30, 2018

For many of us, the word “summer” conjures up visions of sandy beaches and waves crashing on the shore, gatherings with friends to cook hotdogs and hamburgers on the grill, and dazzling displays of fireworks in the night sky for Independence Day and other events.

But while these summer traditions are common in a lot of places, some things aren’t the same everywhere. Recently I was talking to my best friend, who currently lives in Japan, and she mentioned how summer is the season for ghost stories over there. For us, we typically associate spooky stuff with Fall and Halloween, but in Japan it’s August instead.

I did a little research to figure out why summer ghost stories are so popular, and I found a few explanations. Firstly, it’s just a fun activity to pass the time during Japan’s very hot summer evenings and “sending shivers down your spine” can supposedly cool you off. Then there’s also August’s annual Obon Festival, a Buddhist celebration in which dead ancestors apparently come back to visit. So with more ghosts wandering around than usual this time of year, that means more ghost stories.

Keep in mind, of course, that Japanese people still go on beach trips and enjoy fireworks and cookouts too, just like we do. The ghosts are just a spooky bonus, I guess!

The conversation with my friend sparked my curiosity, and I wondered what other different summer traditions take place around the world.

An article from CNN detailed popular summer solstice celebrations in European countries like Sweden and Greece. A lot of these old celebrations were based around fertility, so they had activities like dancing around a maypole (Sweden) and telling dirty jokes in the form of poetry (some parts of Greece). Several European countries also celebrate the summer holiday by traditionally jumping over bonfires… which, okay, doesn’t really sound all that different from America, to be honest.

A lot of interesting festivals popped up as I was searching too. The one which sounded the most exciting takes place in the town of Buñol in Spain each August. “La Tomatina” festival invites people to throw tomatoes at each other for fun. It’s a tradition which stretches back to 1945. The festival has a few rules participants have to follow, such as staying a safe distance away from traffic and squashing tomatoes before throwing to avoid hurting anyone.

For our friends living in the southern hemisphere of the world, their summer takes place during our winter months. It’s a little strange for us to imagine celebrating holidays like Christmas and New Years when the weather is warm, flowers are blooming everywhere, and there’s no threat of snow. But it’s normal for people living in countries like Australia, South Africa, and Brazil.

With school getting back in session now, summer is winding down for us here. Before we know it, the ground will be covered with colorful fallen leaves and everything will become pumpkin spice flavored.

But there’s still a little bit of time left to tell a few ghost stories and throw some tomatoes and have fun!


Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or by phone at 252-332-7206.