October, the 10th month in the Julian and Gregorian calendars but with a name ironically derived from the Latin for “eight”, seems to inspire a change of mood, more than just the autumnal post-summer blues too. The leaves are falling, colours changing from green to a spectrum starting at yellow via rust and red through to brown. Then there are the harvest festivals to celebrate the completion of the crops for another year (granted though they have Thanksgiving in the USA in November.)
Great songs are sometimes about October too. How about Van Morrison’s immortal Moondance? Amy Winehouse’s take on the Lullaby of Broadway, October Song? U2’s October? And this and this and this and this? There is something of a sad, reflective, mournful, autumnal mood to each of these songs, don’t you think? Minor keys and downbeat lyrics. Can this be accidental?
On a personal note, I was married on a glorious October day in 1990, arguably as perfect as any summer’s day and in such a glorious location too – Nazeing parish church in the Essex countryside, and while I can’t share any religious convictions about it I can certainly recognise the beauty of the church in the rolling countryside. Sad that the marriage ended after 18 years, but that was also in October. Spooky eh?
Not really, seems entirely fitting with the mood of a month that finishes with Halloween. This is of course the spookiest celebration of the year. In the words of Wikipedia:
‘Halloween or Hallowe’en (a contraction of its original title “All Hallows‘ Evening“), also known as All Hallows’ Eve, is a yearly holiday observed around the world on October 31, the eve before the Western Christian feast of All Hallows. According to some scholars, All Hallows’ Eve initially incorporated traditions from pagan harvest festivals and festivals honoring the dead, particularly the Celtic Samhain; other scholars maintain that the feast originated entirely independently of Samhain. Typical festive Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (also known as “guising“), attending costume parties, carving jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films‘
Well I have written about Halloween before (see here), so no point repeating the message. Essentially a pagan ritual it may be, but Halloween does seem to go well with the mood of darkening nights and nature dying back for another year that we celebrate evil and death, the demons bringing the onset of winter. It panders to our fears, maybe takes us back to the days when people really did fear that there were werewolves out in the forest or creatures of the night ready to suck our blood as we lie in our beds.
Of course this month also marks the anniversary of the events of the October revolution in Russia in 1917, culminating in the end of Tsarist autocracy. On a slightly lesser note it also marks the production of the latest play for my amateur dramatics group.
But there seems to be no shortage of other celebrations and festivals around the world coinciding with what we call October. Just because the sunshine is steadily giving way to wind and rain does not mean we can’t have a bloody good time – who needs an excuse?