Toledo Irish: There is a Grand Stretch in the Evening!
It is hard to believe we are approaching the halfway mark of the 2021 calendar year, but it is true! June is upon us, and so is the first day of summer and the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. On June 21st in Ireland, the sun will rise at 4:56 am and will set at 9:57 pm, allowing for a full seventeen hours of daylight. Here in Toledo, we will be greeted by the sun at 5:59 am, and it will descend at 9:12 pm, giving us fifteen hours and twelve minutes of daylight. But wow, seventeen hours of daylight in Ireland? That will certainly lend itself to a grand stretch in the evening!
I often think back on my time living abroad in Ireland. It was really important for me to experience day to day living, absorb and embrace the culture; and yes, even pick up on a few colloquialisms here and there. I didn’t feel like I could truly be “Irish” without being able to “walk the walk” and “talk the talk.”
When I arrived in Ireland during the summer of 2011, I recall hearing, in a variety of conversations with family, that it was so lovely to have a “grand stretch in the evening.” Initially, not knowing what that meant, I felt the obligation to decipher the message on my own to avoid looking like an uncultured American at all costs!
Not all Irish slang was challenging, as I had already heard a lot of it growing up, but this one threw me for a loop. Luckily, I was able to determine that the “grand stretch in the evening” meant that the sun was out well into the night, and it certainly was!
I have a very vivid memory of experiencing the “grand stretch” for the first time. It was a lovely day in June, and I set out to meet one of my cousins at the pub around 7 pm. The inside of any pub tends to be quite dark, so when we were ready to leave around 11 pm, I naturally assumed I was going to be setting out for home in the dark.
To my surprise, there was still a glimmer of light in the sky at that time. That is when I truly understood the “grand stretch.”
The extension of the seventeen hours of daylight on summer solstice is helped by daylight savings time. Ireland officially adopted daylight savings time in May 1916, just weeks after the Easter Rising. Up to then, according to solar or local time, Dublin was thirty-five minutes behind London.
Daylight Savings Time
The real impetus to enact daylight savings was economic. Using more sunlight would reduce expenditures on lighting; and during World War I, the economy drove decisions. Ireland not only adopted daylight savings in 1916, but the country also synchronized time with England, which proved to be helpful for marketing and trade deals.
The “grand stretch” officially begins at the start of daylight savings time. However, after living in Ireland for a year, I leaned that it was socially acceptable to start talking about the “stretch” as soon as you could see the sun past 4 pm (slight exaggeration) and that the “grand stretch” would start after daylight savings time began. In any situation, it was always an exceptionally good conversation starter or a great way to fill a gap.
The summer solstice, of course, is not just about the stretch in the evening. The summer solstice marks the first day of summer; and, of course, is the longest day of the calendar year. In Ireland, celebrations on this day date back more than 5,000 years. The celebration marked the end of the long, dark winter and happily welcomed the return of the sun. The sun brought back life that would again revive and enrich the environment.
At that time, so long ago, it wasn’t uncommon for people to partake in Midsummer festivals or to host bonfires in the local communities and throughout the country. Although Midsummer festivals are a part of history, we will now have to settle for the “grand stretch in the evening” to celebrate summer.
The other most notable day of the month is, of course, on June 4th, National Hug Your Cat Day! For anyone who may have adopted a furry feline pet during quarantine, like I did, (Her name is Orla!) you now understand this momentous day!
Here’s to wishing all Ohio Irish American News readers a happy and healthy summer. Go Hens!