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October Musings

“Octo” is Latin for “eight,” this once having been the eighth month of the year in the Roman calendar. In the Gregorian calendar, which we presently use, this is, of course, the tenth month. 

The Julian, or Old Style calendar, was established by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C., and that’s where its name comes from. It replaced the Roman calendar, which had only 355 days in a year. By the time Caesar came to power, the Roman calendar was three months ahead of the solar year. 

It was not until 1582 that the Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after he noticed that the Julian calendar drifted 10 full days off. To put a remedy to the identified problem, he removed the leap years from the century years and added two months before the first indicated month in the Julian calendar. This is why the months January and February have come to exist, moving the rest of the months up causing their names not to match their number.

Clear as mud, right? Let’s just reflect on all the many things that happen this month. In our Northern Hemisphere the leaves of the trees often begin to change, creating forests arrayed with multiple colors. I can remember when there was no such thing as a leaf blower. We raked the leaves into the street or piled them high next to the alley behind the house. Then we jumped into the piles. Often people burned the leaves but, of course, for the good of the environment that practice has been abandoned. Many, including me, fortunate not to experience allergies, enjoyed the smell of burning leaves as it signaled the start of the fall season. 

The sports scene comes alive in October. The World Series for Major League Baseball generally takes place this month. The National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, both begin their seasons in October. And college and high school football competitions also are well underway this month. 

It’s apple picking time in October and with that comes apple cider. And let’s not forget the opportunity of trying to navigate a corn maze, going through a haunted house or enjoying a hayride. For me, however, a hayride was not enjoyable. The one and only hayride I remember going on some bratty kid hit me in the face with a wad of straw and I lost my glasses. Also, when I was young, I had hay fever, which meant sneezing a lot and watery eyes when near hay.

And let’s not forget Sweetest Day, a holiday celebrated in the Midwestern and parts of the Northeastern United States, and in Florida on the third Saturday in October. It’s a day to share romantic deeds or expressions, and acts of charity and kindness. And eat lots of candy. 

As the weather gets cooler October also opens the opportunity to begin wearing sweaters and other fall clothing again. Maybe it comes too early for some but October marks the start of the holiday season, beginning with Halloween, then Thanksgiving followed by Christmas and New Year’s. And it’s time to concentrate on doing some outside decorating including carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns. And, of course, the month ends with All Hallows Eve and trick-or-treating. 

I can’t help but compare how Halloween was back in my childhood compared to what it has evolved into today. We trick-or-treated in our own neighborhood. And when you rang a doorbell, the occupants insisted you come inside where initially they tried to guess who you were. If they were unsuccessful, you unmasked so they knew about where you lived and who your parents were. Then you got a nice treat, like a popcorn ball, fresh-baked cookies or a cupcake. That’s so unlike today where hoards of kids descend on a neighborhood and often help themselves from a bowl of candy on the porch or thrust their goodie bag at the homeowner with no such thing as a “thank you.” I know, it’s too early for bah humbug! 

Finally, it’s no secret that October is one of the most thrilling months of the year! It is representative of the autumnal change. It brings with it cooler weather, prettier scenery and an overall sense of adventure! This month will go by quickly, so be sure to appreciate it for all of its treats, despite the tricks. Enjoy especially the gift that is October.

Vince LaBarbera
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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer