For some, January 1 is New Year’s Day. It’s the first day of the new calendar. It’s the first leap into a new season of health, fitness, prosperity, and the myriad other goals we set out for ourselves. It’s an annual ritual now shared around the world. A time of unfettered optimism and lofty thinking to propel us through another 365 days of incredible personal achievements.
For us, this isn’t the case. Granted, we do use that calendar flip as an arbitrary point of arrival too; it’s hard not to, with all the hype over it. But as a family, we’ve always sort of viewed September 1 as the real new year.
It sounds strange, but looking around our Facebook feeds, it appears we’re not the only ones. All of our friends and family with kids are busy posting about back-to-school mayhem, with new schedules filled with dance classes and music lessons and Guides and Scouts, new wardrobes and new grade level adventures. The littlest ones piling onto buses for their first rides into the exciting world of blossoming minds. Last year’s graduates embarking on their first big adventures away at college or university — still children, but testing their wings as adults.
Everyone is pulling out their new fall wardrobes. It’s not t-shirts and shorts anymore, but cozy sweaters and fresh fabrics. A new pair of shoes (or four) to replace the ones worn out over last winter’s slogs through the salt and snow. Flannels and cottons and wool wrap us in comfort. It is, in our opinion, the best time to refine and define personal style.
As the harvest starts rolling in at the farmers’ markets and grocery stores, the flavours of the season start to coalesce into the very essence of comfort food. Squashes and turnips, potatoes and turkeys. Apples. Pumpkins. And with all of this, the house starts to wash over with the smells of cinnamon and spice. Sage. Thyme. Nutmeg. Cloves. The baking and canning and roasting begin, and we’re lost in the aromas of a lifetime of harvest homes. It becomes impossible to forget the traditions we grew up with, and we’re reminded unconsciously of the importance of being surrounded by our loved ones.
People returning from summer holidays, just like their kids, head back to work refreshed and invigorated, ready to charge ahead to the end of the calendar year. It’s the final push, aiming for that holiday season. With the doldrums of summer behind them, they hit the ground running, already laying plans for the new year and taking stock of the previous months. The air is electric with excitement as the season starts anew.
The world itself awakens, even as it starts the slow shift toward its long winter sleep. The autumn breeze smells faintly like frost. Like stepping in front of a fan on a hot, humid day, the crisp morning air wakes you up with a splash of memory. You step outside and you’re instantly transported back to your best days when, as a child, you yourself donned your best back-to-school outfit, bundled up, and ran out into the morning full of adventure to meet your friends and plan your recess games, trade your hockey cards, and compare lunchbox contents.
Do we even need to mention the colours? Those first furtive flicks of a changing leaf here and there, barely perceptible at first. And then an explosion of furious, vibrant reds and yellows, washing the entire landscape in a blaze of dazzling fireworks that puts any silly summer celebration of human design to shame. And amidst all that colour, fat robins plop down on worms in the grass as jays and cardinals and finches swarm the feeder on the fence. Their long winter is coming, and some of them will be travelling a long way, while others need to fatten up against the cold. Squirrels flip and fly through the apple trees like furry-tailed monkeys, their acrobatics partly entertainment and partly collecting apples for the winter. On breaks they stop by the bird feeder for a snack and make a mess of it, which suits the finches and wrens on the ground below just fine.
The world outside smells like the best of all seasons. Freshly cut grass mixed with wet leaves, lightly dusted with the scent of a wood fire somewhere in the neighbourhood. This is the best season for a campfire. S’mores and warm coffee and wood smoke. The smell of fresh-cut pine from the woodpile, and from whatever Dad was out in the workshop building all day. Chilly cheeks. Icy fingers wrapped around a warm mug. A cozy body in an old wool blanket. Feet a little too warm from resting on the rocks by the fire.
This is the season when our social calendar kicks into high gear. Concert and theatre and community events abound. We’re already planning our menus and events for Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Christmas. Friends are gathering back from vacations, and we’re all in town at the same time. It’s time to visit. Time to play date. Time to party. Menus need preparation. The decor inside starts to reflect that outside: pinecones, acorns, and harvest fruits. Pumpkins and gourds. Dried grasses and leaf garlands. There’s no joy better than we have in Canada, where Thanksgiving is in October and we get three months of festive season to end the calendar with joy and abundance.
In the words of the late American composer, Samuel Pellman:
This day our time has arrived.
This day our spirits revive,
seeing our dear friends around,
so many blessings abound.
It’s a good day to celebrate life.
Why is fall the new new year? Because even though this is when the calendar comes to an end, even though this is the prelude to the dark sleep of winter, it’s our greatest time of respite, renewal, and rebirth. Our lives are filled with joys and blessings, love and laughter, colour and flavour. And this is the season to grow, plant the seeds that will blossom in the new year, and share all that we’ve accomplished and all that we have planned for the future.