Debbie Davenport, MLS, Collection Development Librarian, Ingram Library Services
September ushers in a new season... Autumn. The days are retiring earlier while the nights are gaining ground. Temperatures are no longer set to “roast” from the months of summer. There are nights around the fire pit with cider and hot chocolate to go with the nip in the air. ‘Tis the season of Friday night high school football and Saturday marching band competitions (pre-COVID-19, anyway).
Could you guess that fall happens to be my favorite time of the year? I’m not alone in this sentiment. According to a Gallup survey from 2005 (the last time Gallup asked this question), 27% of Americans prefer the fall season, topped only by spring at 36%. But for all of us who love the season which contain pumpkin spice everything, Halloween, and colorful falling leaves, there are a few things that you may not know.
So, what’s in a name? Fall was originally known as “harvest” because the harvest moon typically occurs sometime around the autumnal equinox. The season then became known as Autumn and the term is still commonly used by the British today. It is believed the term “Fall,” which refers to the "fall of the leaf," came into use in the 1600’s when people started moving into cities. As we know, we commonly use "fall" today.
Greek mythology had a different way of describing the season of Fall. To shorten the ancient story, Hades (god of the underworld) fell in love with Persephone. He kidnapped her to his home, wanting her to rule by his side as queen. But Persephone’s mom was Demeter, the goddess of nature and harvest. She was so distraught by her daughter’s kidnapping she caused all the crops to wither away until Persephone was returned, which marked the start of spring. Because of an agreement between the three, this cycle is repeated every year.
But wait—there’s more! Did you know that when you are born could also be a factor in your life span? Researchers have discovered that people born in fall months are more likely to live to 100 years old! They hypothesize that this is directly related to the environment and nutrients available to the person during development, both during pregnancy and after birth. Statistically, these children have also been shown to be better students, as well as being more athletic.
For the romance department, researchers have noted more people go from “single” to “in a relationship” in the Fall than any other season. Some scientists think that may be because both men and women experience a higher level of testosterone in the colder months. Others hypothesize it may be an ancient instinct that drives humans to find someone to “cuddle” with, so they’re not alone during the cold weather months. I wonder if this is related to sitting around a fire with friends as well? More a companionship vibe than a romantic interest if you will? That’s my theory, anyway.
All you leaf peepers out there... Did you know that leaves don’t actually change color? Get ready for the science: Leaves are full of chlorophyll, which is a naturally occurring chemical that makes them green. But when leaves get less sunshine in the fall months, there isn’t as much chlorophyll produced. So, the green color of the leaf fades and allows the natural color to come out. Those vibrant colors have always been there! The ideal conditions just weren’t right for them to shine. In addition, the vibrancy of the colors is related to the amount of sugar in the leaves. Lots of dry weather and sunlight will lead to more sugar in the leaves, making the colors much brighter once chlorophyll production drops.
Finally, if you’re into light shows, Fall is the best time to see nature’s northern light show, the Aurora Borealis. According to NASA, the longer nights and cooler weather make fall “Aurora Season". Geomagnetic storms are about twice as frequent during the fall, creating the stunning light show. Viewing that awesome sight is on my bucket list!
There is a fascination with Fall and the many things it encompasses. These shared tidbits are just a glimpse of the many colorful aspects for this time of the year. I plan to go exploring to find out more about the equinox happening all around (safely, of course). You should, too. Pleasant surprises await you out of doors! Pumpkin patches, apple picking, plaid blankets….