Why do we celebrate so many holidays in October?

October is the tenth month of the year. Our primary association with October is fall and the leaves turning colors leading us into the bleaker season of winter and snows. There are several quite memorable holidays in October including: Halloween, All Hallows Eve, Oktoberfest and Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Some of these holidays celebrate a continuation with life after death. The Aztecs and other Central American tribes celebrated a Day of the Dead since they viewed death as a continuation of life. Instead of fearing death, they embraced it; to the Aztecs, life was a dream and only in death did they become truly awake and alive. In countries that celebrate Halloween, we can see a similar association with the spirit world as manifested in ghosts, vampires, goblins and witches.

Oktoberfest of course is another story. The first Oktoberfest took place in 1810 in Bavaria to celebrate the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese. It has since evolved to become known as one of the largest beer drinking parties in the world. Numerous places now host “Oktoberfest” days complete with lots of beer, German sausage and polka music. In Minnesota, Oktoberfest may occur in September since by October it might be too cold to sit outside and enjoy a pitcher of beer. By the beginning of October, our leaves will be at the peak of their colors and by the end of October, the leaves will have mostly fallen and we will be counting the days until our first snow storm. Of course, this year Karen and I are in Arizona for October and will not be back until the beginning of April. The images are very different down here but the holidays and traditions remain the same.

October seems like a month to start thinking about hibernating and winding down before the winter begins. It is hard to describe the eerie beauty of the MN woods in October once all the leaves have fallen and before the snow has turned. If we are lucky, we get what is called an “Indian Summer” where we get a few extra days of really warm summer like weather before the cold crashes down on us. We revel in these days, for we know, we will soon become like hobbits and take to our abodes to succor the warmth. We will have our supply of fireplace wood amply stacked for the long dark cold winter months to come. The gales of November will soon follow the gremlins and goblins. Many people no longer wait until after Thanksgiving to put their Christmas lights up. Halloween has become the new marker as the day to start putting lights up and even begin the annual Christmas shopping season.

Why do things seem to keep happening faster and faster and earlier and earlier? Why is Halloween now a major holiday in so many parts of North America? What does October mean to you? Do you connect with your departed ancestors? Do you look forward to the changing colors or simply can’t wait to get to an Oktoberfest party? Do you start thinking about Christmas or do you put it off until after Thanksgiving?

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