The Dying of the Year

The Dying of the Year

Autumn LeavesI really hate this time of the year. I call it the dying of the year. The light of the bright summer sun is fading. The leaves are steadily falling off the trees. The beautiful flowers are dying, if they haven’t already been killed by the first frost.

This is my 63rd fall and I don’t like it any better now than I did as a child. I was and still am a child of the sun. Spending my every summer at the beach. Enjoying the sand and surf. Tanned by the 4th of July.

I’ve spent 8 summers in Virginia where the season runs from April to the middle of October. It was only then that I stopped wearing shorts and started wearing socks and pants. I hadn’t worn socks for at least 6 months. They felt strange at first.

My Celtic ancestors named October 31st the festival of Samhain. Interestingly, it was considered the beginning of year and the first month wasSummer Sun named Samonios, ‘Seed Fall’: in other words, from death and darkness springs life and light.

The Native Americans reckoned their year by the moon. They kept track of the year by each full moon. Each one had a distinctive name. November is named the Beaver Moon and December ominously is called the Cold Moon or the Long Nights Moon.

The Chinese are very practical and have descriptive names for their 15-day time periods: November 7th is simply “Start of winter”, followed by “Minor snow” on November 22nd and “Major snow” on December 7th.

The Old Norse and Old High Germans named November and December Frost Month and Winter Month, respectively. They were quite literal with their naming pattern.

William Wadsworth said it best in his poem Midnight Mass for the Dying Year:

Yes, the Year is growing old,

And his eye is pale and bleared!

Death, with frosty hand and cold,

Plucks the old man by the beard,

Sorely, Sorely!

The peoples of the world have many different month names and many different descriptions but it all boils down to one thing. This time of the year is when nature begins her long slumber in the dark Winter night and begins the dying of the year.

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