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Love Autumn? We take at look at 10 unusual facts about this cosy season
What do you think of when you picture Autumn? For us, this season is all about settling down in the evening with a mug of our favourite hot chocolate, going for walks in the woods underneath the glowing colours of Autumn leaves, and eating s’mores over a fire at dusk.
However, the Autumn season isn’t just an aesthetic for your Instagram feed – it actually has some pretty interesting facts behind it. We break down 10 things that you didn’t know about Autumn so that you can impress your friends and family in time for this year’s season change.
- The Autumn equinox is different each year
- Autumn was once called Harvest
- The term “fall” isn’t exclusive to America
- Autumn babies live longer
- Global warming may affect Autumn selfies
- The Greeks have a tragic explanation for Autumn
- Autumn can affect your health
- Bobbing for Apples is a British invention
- Autumn and Animals
- Autumn is the season of love
1. The Autumn equinox is different each year
Whilst the Autumn equinox happens every September, each year it lands on a different date, normally either September 22nd or 23rd. The equinox is when the sun is directly in line with the Earth’s celestial equator, meaning day and night are of equal length.
The reason why the equinox falls on a different date each year is because the Gregorian calendar (the one used by most of the world) counts only 365 days a year, rather than the 365.25 days the Earth actually takes to orbit the sun.
2. Autumn was once called Harvest
The Autumn season once had a completely different name; during the 12th and 13th centuries in England, Autumn was known as ‘haerfest’, or in today’s spelling, ‘harvest’. One of the reasons it earned this name was because the full moon nearest to the Autumn equinox is called the harvest moon.
The harvest wasn’t just significant because it owed its title to the moon – harvest was also a time where farmers could finally reap the rewards from the crops they sowed, resulting in an abundance of produce.
Harvest was so significant that the Harvest Festival was born – pagans would give thanks for successful yields in the form of singing hymns, dancing, praying, and decorating churches with fruits.
In Britain, the Harvest Festival is traditionally held on the Sunday closest to the Harvest Moon, typically around the 22nd or 23rd September which tends to be the same date as the Autumn equinox. Nowadays, the Harvest Festival is still celebrated in Christian churches – people are encouraged to bring in non-perishable food items, which are then donated to those who are less fortunate.
3. The term ‘Fall’ isn’t exclusive to America only
Although we Brits might turn up our noses at our fellow Americans who have labelled the Autumn season ‘fall’, it was actually a fairly common term in England up until relatively recently. The phrase was commonly used in England up until the 17th century, derived from – unsurprisingly – the shortening of the phrase “fall of the leaf”.
This explains why those in America still use the word to describe the Autumn season: many Britons emigrated from the UK to the US when the word was still popular, meaning they took the terminology along with them.
It wasn’t until the 18th century that the word ‘Autumn’ fell into English hands; derived from the French term Automne. One of the reasons for this may have been that the upper echelons of British society wanted to strive for a more refined language to separate them from the working class. Their Yankee ancestors, on the other hand, were less bothered by the adoption of a poncier word.
4. Autumn babies live longer
Although the days might be getting shorter, those born in Autumn could live longer, according to a study carried out by the Journal of Aging Research. The study found that 30% of US centenarians born during 1880-1895 were born in the Autumn season.
One of the theories for this is because Autumn marks a change in temperature: babies born in colder months can therefore develop a greater immunity to colds and flues. Some also believe simply that cold, crisp Autumn air is good for the constitution, resulting in the child growing up with strong health, although this may simply be an old wives’ tale.
5. Global warming may affect your Autumn selfies
One of the best parts about Autumn is the fiery glow of the leaves as they scatter from trees. However, global warming could have an impact on this much-loved aesthetic: leaves change colour partly because of a noticeable drop in temperatures.
However, with temperatures hotting up due to global warming, this could delay the much-loved colour change. In fact, this process has already started – a 23-year long observational study at Harvard Forest found that Autumnal hues now start five days later than they did at the start of the study.
Global warming doesn’t just affect how late the Autumn changes start; the pigmentation of the leaves can also change. The red pigment in the leaf is manufactured in the Autumn by the fall in temperatures – the cool nights and sunny days prompt trees to store nutrients in their leaves, which takes the form of red pigments.
However, global warming could mean there are fewer cooler nights, which means the trees could either burn off the nutrients, or send it to the twigs, meaning you’ll have to say goodbye to those beautiful amber tones.
6. The Greeks had their own ideas about Autumn
Whilst we now understand that the change of seasons depends on the tilt of the Earth’s axis, the Greeks had a much more tragic explanation.
According to Greek mythology, Autumn began when Persephone, the daughter of the goddess of nature and harvest, was kidnapped by Hades, the God of the underworld. Hades became enamoured with Peresephone and wanted her to be queen of the underworld alongside him.
However, Persephone was so upset that she caused all the crops to die. It wasn’t until Hades returned Peresophone to her mother that life began to creep back into plants, marking the start of Spring.
7. Autumn can affect your health
During the Autumn season the clocks go back, which means we get an extra hour in bed. Although the extra 60 minutes in bed might be satisfying enough for some, research has revealed that this time change actually has some health benefits.
A recent study by the University of Colorado has revealed that the number of fatal heart attacks drops by an average of 20% after the Autumn time switch. The reason? That extra hour in bed does us the world of good, as there is growing evidence to show that sleep deprivation takes the greatest toll on our hearts.
Autumn months can also trigger mild weight gain – although we have a feeling all those pumpkin spiced lattes and s’mores might also play a part in us putting on a pound or two! Researchers believe that the lower levels of Vitamin D from shorter days and less contact with the sunshine plays a role in Autumn and Winter weight gain.
As Vitamin D is thought to increase fat breakdown and reduce the amount of fat the body stores, a lack of it can lead to an average weight gain of two to four pounds each year during this season. However, you can also get your Vitamin D through other sources: oily fish, red meats and egg yolks are a good source of nutrients to compensate for the lack of sunlight.
8. Bobbing for apples is a British invention
Although we hate to say it, the Americans really excel over the UK when it comes to halloween decorations. Nevertheless, we’re proud to claim the invention of apple bobbing, a classic game played at halloween parties.
Although the modern version is now typically played by people bobbing into buckets of water to catch an apple with their mouth, the original game was actually once a British courting ritual. Males were assigned an apple, whilst the female would bob for them, hoping to get the right apple from the man she wanted. If she did, it was a sign that they were destined to be together. Whilst this sounds slightly messy, we appreciate the sentiment – it’s certainly more romantic than Tinder!
9. Autumn and animals
We’ve never really thought about a squirrel’s brain capacity, until now. During the Autumn season, squirrels allegedly become smarter. Although these little fellas seem pretty content with the simple things in life, during Autumn squirrels actually show a 15 percent increase in the size of their hippocampus: the part of the brain which controls the memory and emotion of the animal.
As Autumn is the prime time for a squirrel to find nuts and seeds to store away for the barren winter months, this little critter has to be on top of his game to find the best picks.
Some animals can’t stand Autumn. In fact, the Monarch butterfly dislikes it so much that it’ll fly South from America to the warmth of Mexico and parts of California at a speed between 12 and 25 miles per hour. This fluttering fella is the only insect that migrates up to 2,500 miles for nicer weather – we can’t say we blame them!
Whilst some animals tend to flee the Autumnal months, others become a bit more – erm – excited by it. The male Siberian hamster’s testes swell 17 times larger on short autumn days than during the warm summer months (what a shocker for his wife!).
10. Autumn is the season of love
Whilst February might have the reputation of being the month of love, the Autumn season actually sees a spike in romance. During Autumn, sex drives in both men and women are higher than every other time of the year, with men finding women the most attractive during these months due to their increased production of testosterone.
Love is most definitely in the air in the cyber world during this time too: an analysis of Facebook data shows that more people update their status from ‘single’ to ‘in a relationship’ or ‘engaged’ in Autumn than any other season. It’s not hard to see why – who doesn’t want someone to snuggle down with in front of the fire, or go on long woodland walks under the amber and scarlet hues of Autumn leaves?
If you want to do something special with the one you love, but also don’t want to leave the warmth and comfort of your home, then why not plan a romantic evening in for two? Settle down with a box of luxury chocolates and crack open a bottle of red – we suggest our Chateau Chocolat, a rare and aromatic wine crafted by a boutique winery in the Alentejo of Portugal from four heirloom grape varieties.
Whilst Autumn might mean lazy evenings in front of an open fire with the TV in the background, it also has some interesting facts behind it. Impress your friends and family with your new-found Autumnal knowledge over a dipping adventure dessert, or quiz them as you break off squares of our Fruit & Nut Chocolate Grand Slab.