Fall may be an Americanism of Autumn, but whichever word you use, it’s still a season to inspire cozy, colorful observations. Fall is the season for hayrides, flannel shirts and pumpkin EVERYTHING. The next time you want to describe autumn as your favorite season, try to work one of these reasons into the conversation.
You can get it as a coffee, a candle, even an Oreo flavor. But what is so special about pumpkin spice? The name might trick you — traditionally it’s not pumpkin flavored at all. Pumpkin spice just refers to a blend of primarily cinnamon, with notes of nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice. Pumpkin spice has been referred to in cookbooks since the 1890s, but we can thank Starbucks for the ubiquitous presence of this fall flavor. The Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte was introduced in 2003 and quickly became one of its most popular seasonal flavors. In 2015 the pumpkin was brought to the forefront of the PSL, and a small amount of pumpkin puree was added to the spice recipe.
Repeat after me: Hoo-gah. This Danish word might not be easy for American speakers to pronounce, but the trend has taken over your fall and winter. Hygge is hard to define exactly, but it’s a general concept that means taking comfort in simple pleasures. Sitting on a metal bus bench with wet socks and rain dripping down your collar? NOT hygge. Snuggling on the couch under a hand-knitted blanket with a mug full of cocoa and candles flickering in the corners? Now THAT’S hygge.
Hygge can mean something different to everyone, but it basically means anything that makes you feel like you’re wrapped up in coziness. Hygge is used as both a noun and an adjective in Danish, but the term was adopted into English as a lifestyle trend around 2016. Since then you’ve likely seen articles written about it, and it was even included in a song in the Broadway adaptation of “Frozen.” While trends are likely to disappear as quickly as they come, hygge is one trend that we’re happy to hold onto for many falls to come.
As much as you might love the crisp weather of fall, Indian summer gives you plenty of reasons to rejoice. Indian summer is defined as “a period of warm or mild weather in late autumn or early winter.” You know it as that magical time in October or November when the sun is shining and you can shed the coat. These halcyon (calm, peaceful) afternoons give you a few extra days of warmth before winter, and they’re perfect for heading out to the apple orchard or pumpkin patch.
The equinox is an astronomical event that occurs twice a year. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, you can accurately refer to the second occurrence as the fall or autumnal equinox. However, things get confusing in the southern hemisphere and sometimes this second equinox is referred to as the vernal (spring) equinox. It might just be better to call them by their months — the March and September equinoxes.
Equinox refers to the exact moment when the center of the sun is directly above the equator. In 2019, the autumnal equinox occurs at exactly 07:50 (Greenwich Mean Time) on September 23. So apart from the sun lining up with the equator, what else does the equinox mean? On the day of the equinox, daytime and nighttime are of approximately equal duration, all over the world. On the day of the equinox, the sun rises at about 06:00 and sets at about 18:00 (local time) everywhere in the world, except the poles. The fall equinox also marks the beginning of autumn on your calendar in the northern hemisphere. On September 23, take a look at the sky and see if you can tell any difference in the autumn sky.
Here’s another astronomical event: The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox and is characterized by its orange color. It can occur before or after the equinox. The first recorded use of this name was in 1706, and it probably came from farmers taking advantage of the light of the large full moon to complete their harvest. The Harvest Moon now marks celebrations in many cultures. In Asia the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is celebrated in China, Vietnam, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In the United States we still honor the harvest time with fall festivals, farmers markets and craft fairs.
If you love fall, you treasure long drives through fiery avenues filled with red, orange and yellow falling leaves. The beauty of this color extravaganza is thanks to deciduous trees. This just means trees with leaves that fall off or shed seasonally. This yearly occurrence might be a simple fact of nature, but it brings an enchanting magic to the fall landscape. In New England, there’s a special category of tourists called “leaf peepers” who make an annual pilgrimage to view the intense colors of a northeastern fall. If you’d like to plant your own deciduous tree and improve your fall color palette, try one of these trees: Sugar Maple, Black Tupelo, Sourwood, or Sassafras.