We’re tempted to label any warmer than average October day as “Indian Summer”, but that’s not always the case.
There are specific requirements needed for an official “Indian Summer”.
To understand the term, it’s good to know its origin, but the problem is that the origin is unclear. The first known use of the term was written in an essay in 1778. Other references date back to 1851.
Some sources indicate that “Indian Summer” was used to describe a period of warm weather when Native Americans would continue to gather supplies for the winter ahead. Early American settlers also took advantage of the warmer weather to get ready for the colder days ahead.
In his wonderful book, “The Wabash”, William E. Wilson relates a story where the term took a darker meaning. It was described as a time when the Native Americans would use the warmer weather to carry out raids on the settlers.
Unlike the “Dog Days of Summer”, which describe a definite astronomical period of time, “Indian Summer” does not have a pre-determined period of time. However, there are certain requirements.
A true “Indian Summer” must follow a widespread killing frost. There can be no surviving flowers or plants. There should be plenty of sunshine.
The atmosphere should be still and hazy, never breezy or turbulent. The Old Farmer’s Almanac goes even further to state that a true “Indian Summer” cannot occur before Saint Martin’s Day, which happens On November 11th.
Finally, a former meteorology professor once told me, “If you still have bees, it’s not Indian Summer”.
So, while it’s tempting to call a warm late autumn day “Indian Summer”, a look at the requirements shows that not every warm, sunny day is “Indian Summer”.