StarDate: August 1, 2009

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Fall feels a long way away. We're in the middle of summer's heat, and for families, most schools won't start up again for three or four weeks.

But in some calendars, today marks the beginning of the autumn season. That's because today is celebrated as a cross-quarter day. It's roughly halfway between a solstice and an equinox, which are the dates that mark the changing of the astronomical seasons.

In days gone by, many cultures celebrated these dates with feasts or other special events.

In the British Isles, for example, August 1st was known as Lammas -- a name that's probably short for "loaf mass." By this time of year, the first wheat crops had been harvested, so people celebrated with a feast. They baked bread, which was blessed by the local priests. And many renters used wheat to pay their rent, which was due by August 1st.

Lammas doesn't get a lot of attention these days, especially in the United States. But a couple of other cross-quarter days do. The best known are Halloween in October, and Groundhog Day in February.

The official start of autumn, by the way, doesn't come until September 22nd -- the day of the autumnal equinox, when the Sun crosses the equator from north to south. School will be in session then, and most important, the weather will be cooling off. For those of us in Texas, at least, that's a great reason to celebrate the start of a new season.

Tomorrow: The Sun moves out of position.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009

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