History of November: That In-between Month
November is the penultimate month of the year, meaning “next to the last.” It was the ninth month (Latin: novem) until the ancient Romans shoehorned in January and February. November enjoys the distinction of being situated between the two biggest holidays in the American calendar. October has Halloween, the #2 candy revenue holiday in America, and a sucrose-collecting bonanza for children nationwide. December features Christmas, #1 in everything, and a favorite for those who are children-at-heart.
November is Interstitial
But November is somewhere in the middle. Indeed, it has Thanksgiving, no little holiday, and something for which to be grateful. But it’s not widely observed outside the U.S., 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, grows on you.
- Who could forget Sweet Potato Awareness Month? It’s always in good taste.
- For 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 posting.
- Finally, big shock, it’s also Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness Month
November and H.E.S.
November is subject to an increased incidence of H.E.S. or Holiday Elision Syndrome. The following examples should explain this.
1) 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, regardless of the date. Look it up. However, it is disturbing that T.V. stations abuse that freedom by showing horror movies in November AFTER Halloween.
Is Nothing Sacred?
2) The popularization of Pumpkin Spice Everything; indeed, the increasing “pumpkinization” of America, discussed previously, has been a cultural eraser that minimizes distinctions between the end-of-year holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
3) Historically, Black Friday, following Thanksgiving, used to be 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 Lowe’s!
Lessons for Future Novembers
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
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