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Tina M Wenger
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In North America, autumn is usually considered to start with the September equinox. In traditional East Asian solar term, autumn starts on or around 8 August and ends on about 7 November. In Ireland, the autumn months according to the national meteorological service, Met Éireann, are September, October and November. However, according to the Irish Calendar, which is based on ancient Gaelic traditions, autumn lasts throughout the months of August, September, and October, or possibly a few days later, depending on tradition. In Australia, autumn officially begins on 1 March and ends 31 May.
Association with the transition from warm to cold weather, and its related status as the season of the primary harvest, has dominated its themes and popular images. In Western cultures, personifications of autumn are usually pretty, well-fed females adorned with fruits, vegetables and grains that ripen at this time. Many cultures feature autumnal harvest festivals, often the most important on their calendars. Still extant echoes of these celebrations are found in the autumn Thanksgiving holiday of the United States and Canada, and the Jewish Sukkot holiday with its roots as a full-moon harvest festival of "tabernacles" (living in outdoor huts around the time of harvest). There are also the many North American Indian festivals tied to harvest of autumnally ripe foods gathered in the wild, the Chinese Mid-Autumn or Moon festival, and many others. The predominant mood of these autumnal celebrations is a gladness for the fruits of the earth mixed with a certain melancholy linked to the imminent arrival of harsh weather.
This view is presented in English poet John Keats' poem To Autumn, where he describes the season as a time of bounteous fecundity, a time of 'mellow fruitfulness'.
While most foods are harvested during the autumn, foods particularly associated with the season include pumpkins (which are integral parts of both Thanksgiving and Halloween) and apples, which are used to make the seasonal beverage apple cider.
Autumn in poetry has often been associated with melancholy. The possibilities of summer are gone, and the chill of winter is on the horizon. Skies turn grey, and many people turn inward, both physically and mentally.
Similar examples may be found in Irish poet William Butler Yeats' poem The Wild Swans at Coole where the maturing season that the poet observes symbolically represents his own ageing self. Like the natural world that he observes he too has reached his prime and now must look forward to the inevitability of old age and death. French poet Paul Verlaine's "Chanson d'automne" ("Autumn Song") is likewise characterised by strong, painful feelings of sorrow. Keats' To Autumn, written in September 1819, echoes this sense of melancholic reflection, but also emphasises the lush abundance of the season.
October 21st, 2013
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