“November always seemed to me the Norway of the year” – Emily Dickinson
It was very odd to me that I could go out running in short sleeves on the first day of November. Not only that, it just doesn’t feel like November. Shouldn’t I be in a panic that Thanksgiving is coming? Shouldn’t I be making plans, starting my Christmas shopping and, in general, being stressed? Why do I feel this sense of calmness, this sense of comfort with my life and the coming winter?
Beats me. I don’t have an answer, but out of idle curiosity I decided to look up some information about November that was both interesting and fun. Besides Thanksgiving, there are a LOT of different holidays, traditions and festivals that happen during this month. I hope you go away armed with information to amaze your friends and family. At the very least, you now know why certain things the way they are.
“November” comes from the Roman word “Novem”, which literally means 9. This may seem confusing to you these days as it is the 11th month on our calendar, but it was the 9th month in the Roman calendar. They were obviously very creative in their naming mechanism.
In 835 AD the Roman Catholic church created “All Saints Day” on November 1st. They wanted a day to officially recognize the great Christians who had died – men and women who did great deeds for the church. All Saints Day used to be “All Hallows” (for Hallow meant Saint or Holy Person in those days). The feast actually began the evening before, or Eve of All Hallows – which we know as Hallowe’en.
Not to forget the common man who had died, the Roman Catholic church also created “All Soul’s Day”. This is a day that families would visit the graves of those who had died. The Roman Catholic church purposefully had this day follow “All Saints Day” to shift the focus from those in heaven – to those in purgatory. It was believed that this was the night that the dead would visit their homes, so people would often leave a candle out to guide them, as well as food and wine.
Up until 1918 in Europe, November 11th was Martinmas Day, or the feast of St. Martin. This was a time to celebrate the harvest. However, it was changed to Armistice Day in 1918 and apparently most of the old traditions are no longer practiced. However it is now a day to remember the millions of soldiers who died in the two World Wars, as well as other wars.
I ran across a few sayings that were used to judge the severity of the winter months to come. I have always loved Farmers Almanac type of predictions, knowing they often come from centuries of humans staring at the sky and living through conditions with only the roofs over their heads and clothing on their back (yes, I’m overgeneralizing). In any event, here are some that were interesting enough to share:
“Wind northwest at Martinmas, severe weather to come.”
“If ducks to slide at Martinmas, at Christmas they will swim. If ducks do swim at Martinmas, at Christmas they will slide.”
“Thunder in November means winter will be late in coming and going.”
“A warm November is the sign of a bad winter.”
“As high as the weeds grow, so will the bank of snow.”
Lastly, since I know parts of the world are now experiencing snow, and I might even see some of the white stuff myself by the end of the week – I want to share with you a poem I love. Happy November everyone!
Leaves by Elsie N. Brady
How silently they tumble down
And come to rest upon the ground
To lay a carpet, rich and rare,
Beneath the trees without a care,
Content to sleep, their work well done,
Colors gleaming in the sun.
At other times, they wildly fly
Until they nearly reach the sky.
Twisting, turning through the air
Till all the trees stand stark and bare.
Exhausted, drop to earth below
To wait, like children, for the snow.