From the almost imperceptible lessening of this oppressive heat, Floridians can tell that fall is here. Seniors are plotting the laziest possible path of escape from higher education and freshmen are finally settled in and feeling like true college students. Burgeoning romances and artistic inspiration accompany the seasonal tilting of the earth.
The following is a retrospective on autumn and everything it means.
From modern film to classic paintings, artists prove that autumn is more than just a time for deciduous trees to shed their leaves.
Autumn seems to be a favorite season for romantic movies, such as Autumn in New York and Sweet November. In contemporary entertainment, musical artists adulate the fall with band names like Autumn to Ashes or album titles like the Counting Crows’ August and Everything After. Guns and Roses even composed a ballad called”November Rain.”
Poets have found a muse in the transition between summer and winter and have composed odes to the glorious season, as in John Keats’ “To Autumn” and W.B. Yeats’ “The Wild Swans at Coole.”
The rich palette of colors that autumn offers lends itself as a favorite subject of painters like Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh’s vibrant Autumn Landscape and Autumn Garden and Monet’s chromatic Autumn at Argenteuil, Pond in Autumn and the popular haystack series capture the essence of the season.
Another favorite artistic representation of autumn is its personification. Most paintings depict the season as a young, beautiful woman, often shown with wheat and fruit, symbolic of the time of harvest. This image dates back to Greek and Roman mythology and the worship of Demeter (or the Roman goddess Ceres), the goddess of harvest and fertility. Different interpretations can be found in works like “Autumn Evening” by Gary Benfield, “Personification of Autumn” by Currier and Ives and “Now is the Pilgrim Year” by Byam Shaw.
In addition to providing artistic inspiration, autumn is a season of holidays. The tradition of Halloween started off a little bit differently than it is known today. At its inception the holiday was called Samhain, pronounced sow (like cow) -in, and it was a Celtic “fire festival” held on Nov. 1. The Celtic day began at sunset, so when the Christian church took the celebration over and changed its name to “All Hallow’s,” Halloween became the eve of All Hallow’s, according to Halloween.com.
The way the Celts did Halloween was to hold a three-day festival that was said to exist outside of time. Men dressed up like women (and vice-versa), people switched horses, children knocked on doors for treats and everyone generally got a little crazy and blew off some steam. They believed that the boundaries between this world and the next were blurred, so they took that time to honor their dead relatives.
When Samhain was converted to a Christian holiday, it essentially remained the same – it was held on the same day and people still honored the dead.
Nowadays the fundamental aspects of this autumnal celebration are still recognizable, but its execution is rapidly evolving. The parties are getting wilder, the costumes are getting more suggestive and Tampa citizens understand that Guavaween is a raunchy, drunken flesh-fest. The original concept of honoring the dead has morphed into a sort of gory, gothic “scare me” thing.
“It allows you to be someone entirely different, to be your alter ego,” said religious studies professor Dell deChant. “You can be the princess or the superhero. It’s a mechanism for you to get out of your ordinary identity and enter into a different world.”
Another fall holiday whose origins have come to be misunderstood is Thanksgiving. Apparently, George Washington started Thanksgiving as a national holiday for Americans to “give thanks” for their Constitution. Sorry, John Smith.
So whether you’re dressing up like a naughty French maid, painting a masterpiece, getting ready to graduate or getting better at keg-stands, fall is a special time of year for everyone. If you’re lucky you might even get to bust out your winter wardrobe.
Guavaween, Ybor City – Oct. 27, all day ZooBoo, Lowry Park Zoo – Sept. 28 – Oct. 28, 7 p.m.
So You Think You Can Dance Tour – Friday, Oct. 19, St. Pete Times Forum
Indian Rocks Beach Oktoberfest, Kolb Park, Indian Rocks Beach – Oct. 20, 11 a.m.- 7 p.m.
Jane Eyre Performance, Gorilla Theatre -Oct. 25 – Nov. 11
19th Annual Ruskin Seafood & Arts Festival, Ybor City – Nov. 3-4, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Conga Caliente, Al Lopez Park – Nov. 11, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. – A celebration of Hispanic arts and culture Tampa Cigar Heritage Festival, Ybor City – Nov. 17 – Proceeds go to Ybor City Museum Society