HISTORY OF NOVEMBER
November is the penultimate month of the year, meaning next to the last. It used to be the ninth month (Latin: novem) until January and February were shoehorned in by the ancient Romans. November enjoys the distinction of being situated between the two biggest holidays in the American calendar… at least revenue-wise. October has Halloween, the #1 candy revenue holiday in America and a sucrose gathering bonanza for children nationwide. December features Christmas, #1 in everything else and a favorite for those who are children-at-heart.
But November is somewhere in the middle. Certainly, it has Thanksgiving, no insignificant holiday, and something for which to be grateful. But it’s not widely observed outside the US, except for the Canadians who celebrate Jour de l’Action de grâce on the second Monday in October, or by the English who celebrate it on July 4th.
Sure, there are month-long celebrations in November. Movember, though it is a newer holiday, tends to grow on you. Who could forget Sweet Potato Awareness Month? It’s always in good taste. For you aspiring writers, it’s Academic Writing Month (also known as “AcWriMo”) based on National Novel Writing Month (“NaNoWriMo”) and also National Blog Posting Month (“NaBloPoMo”). This would be an example of a blog article. And, big shock, it’s Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness Month.
November is subject to an increasing incidence of what I call H.E.S. or Holiday Elision Syndrome. The following examples should be sufficient to explain this. Here’s a question that your friendly neighborhood historian is frequently asked, now that it’s November:
“Is it OK to listen to Christmas music now?”
In America, our Constitution allows us to listen to Christmas music all year long, regardless of date. Look it up. However, it is disturbing that TV stations are abusing that freedom, like by showing horror movies in November, AFTER Halloween.
Is Nothing Sacred
The popularization of Pumpkin Spice Everything, indeed the increasing “pumpkinization” of America, discussed elsewhere, has been a cultural eraser that minimizes distinctions between the end-of-year holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Historically Black Friday, following Thanksgiving, was the beginning of the Christmas season with street decorations, lights, commercials, merchandise, and even music. More recently this is eliding into pre-Halloween appearances. I’m looking at you Costco and Lowes!
What can we learn from this historical lesson?
- Feel free to wear your Halloween costume the week before
- Drink your Pumpkin Spice Latte all Fall and Winter. Heck, even in the Summer before Labor Day.
- Listen to your Christmas music early; it’s your right.
But let’s try to keep each holiday separate. If we do, everyone will get more candy.
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian