September, October and November: Warm up as the season cools down

SEPTEMBER and OCTOBER and NOVEMBER 2015—The crunch of autumn leaves, the sharp scents of cinnamon and clove and the comfort of steaming soups and drinks usher in the chill of autumn.

Fall officially begins in September with the Autumnal Equinox, when those in the Northern Hemisphere prepare for the darker half of the year and Pagans embrace Mabon, a holiday celebrating the harvest. (You’ll find links to all of our holiday coverage, including a story about the Equinox and Mabon, by visiting

Both Jews and Orthodox Christians welcome a New Year in September, with Jews marking Rosh Hashanah and often consuming plenty of honey. But, honey isn’t reserved for Jewish families as September is also National Honey Month.

October brings cooler weather and kicks off with the International Day of Older Persons, perhaps foreshadowing November’s National Family Caregivers Month. The astrological events of equinox are intensified with the end of Daylight Savings Time, in November, as a season of winter holidays approaches—often filled with warm candlelight and abundant feasts. Squashes, pumpkins, cranberries and root vegetables fill tables for Thanksgiving in November (or, for Canadians, in October). November brings Native American Heritage Month in the U.S., and across much of the world, German heritage is highlighted through Oktoberfest, one month earlier.

Get scared silly—or just indulge in treats—on Halloween, an international holiday of spooks and gooks. Many traditions of Halloween are ancient in nature and can be tied to pagan customs, and today, modern Pagans and Wiccans practice Samhain at this time of year. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead honors deceased ancestors in a colorful way, and Christians recall the spirits of saints on All Saints’ Day.

Celebrate friends and bonds with International Women’s Friendship Month in September, and start seeing pink with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, in October. Take the opportunity to attend a play or a musical performance in October, too, as it is National Arts and Humanities Month. Recognize the struggles and successes of gays and lesbians with LGBTQ Month, in October. Hosts for the holidays keep in mind the needs of their guests, and October raises awareness of Celiac Disease. Those who don’t eat meat are remembered during October—Vegetarian Month—and November, Vegan Month.

As the days of November become colder and darker, the winter holiday season begins, with Diwali—the Festival of Lights—in India. Orthodox Christians begin the Nativity Fast in anticipation of Christmas, and for Western Christians, Advent brings the light of the season.

Check out these month-long highlights …


Pope Francis visited the U.S. to much acclaim in late September, but it’s his namesake—St. Francis of Assisi—who is recognized as October begins. October 4 brings the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, a saint renowned for his love of animals, ecology and the poor. Pet blessings in Francis’s name have become commonplace at churches worldwide, and as environmental concerns grow deeper, Christians look to him as a Patron Saint of Ecology. Later in the month, Wiccans observe Samhain while Halloween reigns strong in many countries. Whether honoring deceased ancestors or donning costumes, there exists an undeniable link between the ancient pagan customs and today’s Halloween traditions. In Mexico and parts of Latin America, Dia de los Muertos falls during or immediately after Halloween, and is a day to celebrate the dead with food and drinks, parties and joyous remembrances.


As the days become darker and colder in the Northern Hemisphere, a holiday season begins that commemorates light, warmth and goodness. In India, Diwali is one of the largest festivals of the year, also known as the Festival of Lights. Homes are extensively cleaned in preparation for the festival, and lighted lamps (diyas) are lit inside and outside the home. Gifts are exchanged and sweets consumed across India. For Jains, Diwali remembers the attainment of moksha by Mahavira, a Tirthankar, or spiritual exemplar. Across Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the Nativity Fast begins, preparing the faithful for Christ’s birth. In Western Christianity, Advent commences. Candles, lamps and lights are common across several spectrums of holidays, bringing to mind the victory of goodness over evil and light in the darkness.

Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead; Christians mark All Saints & All Souls

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 1 and SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 2: The holidays following All Hallows Eve shift our cultural gears from witches, black cats and goblins to a solemnity recalling loved ones. On November 1, Christians observe All Saints’ Day; the following day, Christians pay tribute to the faithful departed, on All Souls’ Day, while in Mexico and Latin American countries, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) vibrantly reflects these observances. During these days, the faithful honor deceased relatives and honor God’s work through the deeds of the saints of the Church.

Think the concept of All Saints and All Souls is strictly Christian? Consider for a moment the similar ideas behind the Chinese Ghost Festival, the Japanese Bon Festival and the Roman custom of Lemuria.


Halloween is also known as All Hallows Eve. All Saints’ Day is alternatively referred to as its counterpart: All Hallows, or Hallowmas. Though marked by Eastern Christians on the first Sunday after Pentecost, Western Christians observe the solemnity of All Saints today, in honor of all the saints known and unknown.

Though evidence exists of earlier commemorations for the graceful departed, the Western Christian festival of All Saints began in 609 or 610 CE—when Pope Boniface IV consecrated and rededicated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all martyrs. (Learn more from EWTN and Observance varies slightly within Western Christian sects: many United Methodist congregations hold a commemoration on the first Sunday of November, for saints, all departed Christians and members of the congregation who have died within the past year; Lutherans observe All Saints’ Day and Reformation Day concurrently. In many countries, and in cities like New Orleans, people take flowers and light candles at the grave sites of their deceased loved ones on All Saints’ Day. (Get an inside view of Sweden’s traditions here.)

Catholic theology holds that All Saints’ Day belongs to all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven.


Vibrant decorations for Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, mark towns in Mexico and Latin American communities far and wide, as the lives of the departed are celebrated with vigor. The full festival of Dia de los Muertos typically lasts two or three days (in some regions, customs begin on October 31), and traditionally, November 1 pays tribute to the souls of children and the innocent while November 2 is dedicated to deceased adult souls. (Learn more from Mex Connect.) In Mexico, relatives adorn altars and graves with elaborate garlands and wreaths, crosses made of flowers and special foods. Families gather in cemeteries, where pastors bestow prayers upon the dead. For children, Dia de los Muertos celebrations mean candy like sugar skulls and once-a-year treats, and music and dancing for all.


Catholics tradition still separates the departed faithful between “purified” and “not purified,” so many families commemorate souls that have not yet reached Heaven on All Souls’ Day. The Catholic Church still teaches that when souls are not cleansed of venial sin or transgressions upon bodily death, they remain in Purgatory. Many believe that the faithful on earth can pray, perform good deeds and make offerings at Mass for the souls in Purgatory, thereby helping them to attain the beatific vision. (Wikipedia has details.)

Folk belief holds that the souls of Purgatory are able to return to earth on All Souls’ Day, and as such, believers in many countries prepare foods and welcome the departed souls. It should be noted, however, that this traditional teaching and practice is not universally emphasized in Catholic communities.

Engage children in the events of these days by regaling stories of deceased relatives or by bringing out photo albums with old photos.

Soul food takes on a new meaning during these days, and recipes for traditional cookies called Ossi di Morto (Bones of the Dead), Pan de Muerto (a bread) and sugar skulls can be found here. Find more recipes courtesy of The Guardian.