I confess I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for September. Every year, I love to see the trees as they cast their lengthening shadows over the landscape. Both the mornings and the evenings are a welcome pleasure as they become noticeably cooler. Minute by minute, the days are shortening.
Seeing there’s now a slight edge to the temperature, it gently urges us to remember our sweater before we head out. Every month has its hidden secrets. Still, September seems to be especially enchanting, its gold dust a treasure for all who wish to notice.
Preparing for Autumn
September is a month where we gear up. It’s time to begin putting away our summer clothes. Anticipating the months to come, we reach for our cosy wool sweaters, fleece and down. The days are still long enough so that even after a day of work, we can still take advantage of the daylight. It beckons us, and we respond, taking long walks or looking to the stars in the back yard on a cool evening.
Image of Charlemagne
Activities like school start up again, come September. And various organisations that took a break over the summer, begin their meetings, renewed for their annual march through the year. For gardeners, it’s a joyful time when they can reap their harvest. In fact, it was called “harvest month” in Charlemagne’s calendar. Charlemagne ruled over Western Europe from 768 to 814 and was eventually crowned as Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III in 800. He was clearly a somebody, enough to warrant his own calendar—at least for a short time.
Changes in Nature
The month of September also marks another important stage in the dance of the galaxy. September is the month of the Autumn equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and the Vernal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere.
It’s a noteworthy time. At this significant moment, the direct light of the sun will be crossing the Earth’s equator, on its way to the Tropic of Capricorn in the south. At this point, we will kindly welcome our Winter Solstice. But that’s another story.
For those of us in the northern hemisphere, the coming of Autumn is a signal that other changes will begin to take place. The woods will take on a golden hue, as the tender needle-like leaves of the larches, for one, gradually turn golden. Gently, they then fall to the ground. Meanwhile, the noble birches will also take their turn, eventually casting the woods in a splendid golden yellow.
September holds other unique and distinct qualities. A long time ago, just over thousand years, in fact, will take us to the time of the Romans. At this point, September was actually the seventh month. It seems obvious when one thinks about it. Although, if you’re like I am, I confess, I never noticed. Still, looking a little closer, the last four months of the year actually are just numbers. September for seven. October for eight. November for nine. Finally December for ten.
A reproduction of the Fasti Antiates Maiores, a painted wall-calendar
from the late Roman Republic.
Right. Now we need to step back to around 738 BCE1 when Romulus, the first king of Rome, instituted a new Roman Calendar system. Following largely the Greek calendar system, their year had ten months in it, beginning with March or Martius. It was in this calendar where September appeared as the seventh month, the other months following behind. There was no winter season at first and so the year only contained 304 days. There were 61 days unaccounted for in the winter.
Later, it was apparently Numa Pompilius following Romulus who developed the Republican calendar. Two additional months were added—Ianuarius and Februarius. They were intended to account for the winter. It’s starting to look a little more familiar, isn’t it?
So, now there were twelve months. The names were now out of sync with the new calendar system. Although, no one was too bothered. As with those of us, nowadays, everyone had likely grown accustomed to the months, by then.
Even after the Gregorian2 calendar was later instituted, correcting problems arising due to a slight miscalculation of the year, no one bothered to correct the oversight. This is the calendar we all casually hang around our homes at the beginning of the year.
In so many ways, September is a month filled with the warm and welcome changes accompanying the sweet progression of the year. Yet, as we’ve learned, there are other delights to be found in the discovery of September’s unexpected and hidden secrets. Uncovering these treasures take us to long ago places and times that have largely fallen away from our day-to-day routines and rituals.
Ultimately, all we know is September is full of surprises. While many of us anticipate the delights of this month, at the same time, we are in awe of its unexpected riches.
1Before Common Era is a secular version of Before Christ.
2The Gregorian calendar, care of Pope Gregory XIII shortened the average year by 0.0075 days. This meant the calendar would not drift out of sync with the equinoxes. Our calendar is in line with the average solar year. There was also a drift in the calendar regarding Spring equinox which threw off the calculation of Easter. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, which is the first full moon on or after 21 March