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The august month of August

And so we come to August.

It’s one of only two months named after a person, as opposed to a mythological being or a number. When you consider it comes after July (which was named after Julius Caesar), it should come as no surprise that August is named after Augustus Caesar.

He didn’t create a brand-new month for himself, though. No, like Julius, he simply took a month that already existed in the Roman calendar and named it after himself.

So what was the original name of this month in the Roman calendar? Well, it was called Sextilis, which means six, because it was the sixth month.

Wait a minute, I hear the chronologically aware out there crying. August is the eighth month of the year.

Yes, it is now. But when the Romans originally named the months, their calendar had just 10 months. January and February came later, but nobody bothered renaming the rest of the months.

That is also why we have Setetember, meaning seven, as the ninth month of the year, and right through the rest of the calendar to December, which was the 10th month way back when.

Why did Augustus decide to take over Sextilis and rename it for himself? Well, according to quotes from writings of the time, he decided it was a good month for him because it marked several of his great military triumphs.

Most people in Canada will be celebrating a long weekend on the first weekend of the month, but we don’t all call it the same thing. In B.C., it’s British Columbia Day (makes sense), with New Brunswick and Saskatchewan following the same naming routine. In Nova Scotia, however, it’s Natal Day, while Manitoba celebrates Terry Fox Day.

There are a couple of other things to celebrate this weekend as well. Saturday is Food Day in Canada, while Sunday is National Peacekeepers’ Day.

Have a great long weekend, and enjoy the rest of Sextilis . . . er, August.

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