The great poet Keats called autumn the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” It is a time of change, of harvest and falling leaves. For many, The great poet Keats called autumn the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” It is a time of change, of harvest and falling leaves. For many, it is the best season of the year—and not just because of pumpkin lattes. The season begins on the autumn equinox (in 2013, September 22) and comprises the months of September, October, and November.
Autumn or Fall?
The name of this season depends mostly on where you live. In the U.S. and Canada, “fall” is more common, while “autumn” is more prevalent in the U.K. According to The Grammarist, “fall” is a shortened version of “fall of the year” or “fall of the leaf.” These colloquial expressions were used in England until the 16th century. The word “autumn” is borrowed from the French; before either of these terms was widely used, however, the season was simply known as “harvest.”
- Harvest moon
- Leaves, blazing gold and red; maple trees have the most vibrant foliage
- The crisp sound of boots crunching through drifts of fallen leaves
- Crackling bonfires and cast-iron woodstoves
- Maize, or corn, is a traditional decoration during autumn; brightly colored, dried corn is known as “flint corn” or “calico corn” and is not usually considered edible
- Hayrides, scarecrows, and corn mazes
- Acorns and chestnuts
- Apples, pumpkins, and gourds
- Sweaters, scarves, and coats
Halloween is a contraction of “All Hallow’s Eve,” a primarily Christian holiday whose roots are in the Celtic Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”). Both holidays center on the time of year when the spirits of the dead are believed to be able to cross over to the other side. However, the holiday has become both secularized and commercialized since the late 19th century. It is celebrated on October 31.
- Trick-or-treating is a relatively modern custom, arising in the 1950s in America, but its traditions reach back to “souling,” or saying prayers for the dead in exchange for cakes, dating back to Medieval England
- Candy—remember to get the good stuff; nobody likes the cheap hard candy!
- Ghosts, goblins, and “boogeymen”
- Bats, crows, and cobwebs
- Tombstones, graveyards, and cemeteries
- Jack-o-Lanterns are traditionally carved from turnips or beets in Europe, but in North America they are almost always carved from pumpkins
- Bobbing for apples
- Spooky, creepy, scary
- Horror movies—Life’s no fun without a good scare, according to The Nightmare Before Christmas
Thanksgiving is a festival of thanks for the bounty of harvest. In the U.S. tradition, it commemorates a 17th century feast of friendship between the Native Americans and the Pilgrim settlers in Plymouth. Modern-day Thanksgiving celebrations involve eating a huge meal with extended family members and then watching football. It is celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November and in Canada on the second Monday of October.
- Cornucopia, or Horn of Plenty, is a traditional symbol of Thanksgiving, although it originated in classical mythology
- Turkey, roasted with herbs
- Pumpkin pie, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice
- Dressing or stuffing, depending on your preference
- Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is considered to be the kickoff of the holiday shopping season and often features bargains for those willing to brave the early morning crowds
For many poets and writers, autumn is an inspiring season, both beautiful and melancholy. Robert Frost frequently wrote about fall, and Emily Dickinson’s 1896 work “Nature, Poem 28: Autumn” perfectly captures the spirit of the season:
The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on.