October is the tenth month in the Gregorian calendar, yet its name is derived from “octo” the Latin for eight. That’s because in the original Roman (Julian) calendar it was the eighth month, before we added January and February to the mix.
In the UK October’s arrival heralds the start of Keats’ “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” but also brings fog, rain and blustery winds. Of course it’s the month for pumpkins and Halloween but here are some other things about October that you might not know.
The Anglo-Saxons called October Winterfylleth
This means the ‘fullness’ of winter because it had the first full moon of the season, which was when winter officially began. We know this because the Venerable Bede, a scholarly monk from Durham, thought it important enough to record for posterity in one of his many books.
The ‘October Revolution’ in Russia took place in November
At that time the Russians had not yet changed from the Julian calendar. Otherwise known as the Bolshevik Coup, it was led by Lenin and began with an armed insurrection in Petrograd on the 25th of October 1917 which equates to the 7th of November in the old calendar.
October is not mentioned in any Shakespeare play or sonnet
Okay, disclosure time. This is one of those facts I found via Google and I cannot verify it. I do have a Complete Works of Shakespeare on my bookshelf but have not combed my way through every play and sonnet to check.
More US presidents have been born in October than in any other month
The list includes John Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter. I don’t believe in astrology so can’t for the life of me come up with any plausible reason why this might be so.
October’s flower is the calendula
There are about 20 species of calendula which have been used for centuries in cooking and for medicinal purposes. The golden calendula was used by the Greeks and Romans in many rituals and ceremonies, sometimes wearing crowns or garlands made from the flowers. One of its nicknames was “Mary’s Gold” which over time became changed to marigold, the calendula’s more common name.
It’s the perfect month for apples
The apple tree was probably the earliest tree to be cultivated and the fruit, picked in late autumn and stored, has been an important food in Asia and Europe for millennia. In America the only native apples are crab apples (delicious for making jelly!) but dessert apples were introduced in the 17th century and the first apple orchard on the North American continent was planted in Boston by Reverend William Blaxton in 1625.
And of course they’re essential for one of those great Halloween traditions, apple bobbing. So to celebrate the coming of October here’s Pork Belly’s recipe for a wonderful apple and brandy cake, packed full of autumn fruitfulness.
While we’re on the subject of Halloween here are a few spooktacular events you might like to visit.
In Sussex we have Tulley’s Farm near Crawley which hosts two versions of their ghostly goings-on. During the day it’s the Spooktober Fest, family friendly activities with Hilda Hotchpotch and Wilfred Wagglewand in charge. At night it’s a different affair – the Shocktober Fest is an immersive and pretty scary gig with a smattering of comedy. Teens and upwards with a taste for the gruesome love it!
It’s been years since we visited the London Dungeons, but it still haunts me (I was accosted by a silent monk, much to Pork Belly’s amusement!) but it guarantees a fright or two at this time of year.
Manchester hosts a Halloween in the City event with a trick-or-treat trail, green-lit buildings and a guest appearance by the Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.
The Almond Valley Heritage Centre in Livingstone near Edinburgh has family friendly events including Scream Teas and a Spooky Saturday.
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