Soon after Labor Day, we get to greet our favorite season. Yes, after putting away our summer whites and shopping for school supplies, we prepare ourselves for fall, which 41% of Americans say they love most, followed by spring and summer, which tie at 24%. It’s pretty predictable that winter would finish last.
Fall officially starts the same day as the autumnal equinox, defined as the day the sun crosses the celestial equator in the Northern Hemisphere. This will occur on Sept. 23 this year, but it has sometimes been on Sept. 22. In a rare moment more than 1,000 years ago, fall started on Sept. 21.
There are many reasons people give for fall being their favorite season. The top three reasons are the beautiful foliage, the temperate weather that begins with a morning crispness, and the advent of Thanksgiving.
Some less frequently-stated reasons for loving the season relate to fall-inspired food, Halloween, and football, America’s number-one sport. You know it’s the fall when you get to rake and jump into a pile of leaves, wear a new cozy sweater, and enjoy some apple cider while maybe eating pumpkin bread.
But beyond the physical manifestations of fall, there is the inspirational side that can be summarized as “new beginnings.” Life somehow starts again (with the sad exception of politics).
Consider the following:
— Our kids return to school to start a new year. This means new teachers, new subjects, sharpened pencils… new possibilities!
— Businesses are waking from their summer slumber. They are again in planning mode, considering new initiatives and how to fund them. For consultants like me, these are the boon months to approach clients. It’s when we hear sentences like, “Once we know our priorities, we’ll get back to you.”
— Farms are busiest in September, harvesting crops from the seeds planted in spring. Fall is the season with the most output, while farmers also fertilize the soil and think ahead.
In September 1962, then-President John F. Kennedy said to a crowd at Rice University in Texas, “Think big. Why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?” He humorously added, “Why does Rice play Texas?”
September was the perfect month to deliver Kennedy’s “think big” message. It’s an excellent month to stretch ourselves.
There is another side to September, which is aptly symbolized by the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During Rosh Hashanah, we take stock of ourselves and wonder how we can be better. We seek forgiveness and make a commitment to begin anew.
Many of the symbols of Rosh Hashanah deliver this message of renewal. The challah we eat is round versus typically long-shaped, symbolizing life’s regenerative powers. It suggests hope and continuity.
We eat apples (how appropriate in September) and honey as our prayer for a sweet year ahead. The honey usually drips off the apple onto the tablecloth, which I take to mean that even in our sweet moments, there is a messy component.
We eat pomegranate because of its numerous seeds. The rabbis interpret the pomegranate seeds as a sign of the many good deeds we should strive to achieve in the year ahead. We can be better and do more.
Perhaps Rosh Hashana’s most moving symbol is the shofar, or ram’s horn. The shofar was cited as the force helping Joshua in his conquest of Jericho as the walls came tumbling down. It is blown on the holiday for 100 counts each day.
We hear four different shofar sounds on Rosh Hashana, each with its significance. There is a “tekiah,” a sharp, brief call for attention, followed by a “shevarim,” a plaintive sound to signify a moment to look inward. There is a “truah” comprising nine staccato notes that sound “broken” and symbolize our own uncertainties. And finally, there is a “tekiah gedolah,” very long and clear blast. It is a statement of affirmation, reminding us that “we can do this.”
“We can do this” is not only the spirit of the Jewish holidays but also the spirit of the fall and may help explain why we love this season most of all.
Jill Ebstein is the editor of the “At My Pace” series of books and the founder of Sized Right Marketing, a consulting firm.