April 17, 2024

Happy fall y’all

For many people, the passing of Labor Day means the coming of fall and everything that goes with it: falling leaves, football and pumpkin spice lattes. But where have some of these fall traditions come from? Sure, falling leaves are just a sign of the changing weather, but all the other symbols of fall have a little bit more to their history.

There are a variety of terms for this time of year. Commonly called fall or autumn now, before the 1500s, this season was commonly called harvest. However, as more and more farmers began moving to towns and larger populated areas, harvest fell out of fashion.

While etymologists can’t seem to agree on the origins of the word autumn, the most likely one in my opinion comes from the Etruscan (an ancient Italian civilization) word autu, meaning “passing of the year.” Other possibilities include words from Proto-Indo-European languages and Latin.

The term fall comes from the Middle English phrase “fall of the leaf,” first recorded in print in 1545, according to The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Another common phrase was “fall of the year.”

Though no longer called it, harvest is a good name for this time of year. For many, it is seen as a time of plenty for food.

Apple orchards, apple pie, apple cider… Apples are a big part of the fall season. Despite having a very American feel, apples originated in Kazakhstan. In fact, the previous capital of Kazakhstan, Alma Ata, literally means “full of apples.”

As different empires rose and fell, apples started making their way to Europe, eventually coming to what is now England around 200 B.C. It was another 1,700 years before apples eventually made their way to the Americas, brought by exploring Spaniards.

These trees started appearing more often in the north in the 1600s after colonists from the Massachusetts Bay Colony requested saplings from England. It didn’t take long for this fruit to spread across the continent and become a staple part of the autumn harvest.

Another fall staple is the pumpkin, but unlike the apple, pumpkins originated in the Americas. According to PBS, pumpkins are believed to have originated in Central America more than 7,500 years ago, with the oldest domesticated pumpkin seeds being found in the Oaxaca Highlands of Mexico.

Pumpkin pies first made their rounds in Europe in the 1600s, about 100 years after pumpkin finally made its way over. As colonists from the Europeans began making their way to the Americas, so did pumpkin pie, which was made much more often due to the large amount of pumpkins present.

It is because of the European’s pumpkin pie that pumpkin spice came to be. These pumpkin pie spice mixtures include a variety of spices, sometimes involving nutmeg, clove allspice, ginger and mace, depending on the recipe. It wasn’t until 1934 that McCormic introduced an official “pumpkin pie spice,” containing cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice.

Sixty-nine years later, Starbucks introduced the Pumpkin Spice Latte, or PSL. Since then, a myriad of other pumpkin and pumpkin spice flavored foods have hit the shelves, though many people still mark the start of PSL season as the start of fall, this year starting Aug. 24.

Corn has also become an important part of the autumn mythos, though not in the same way as the previous food. For many fall enthusiasts, corn mazes are an essential part of the season. While corn mazes are traced back to 1982, the first full-size corn maze was created in Annville, Pennsylvania, in 1993 by Earl Beal, the son of a maze designer for a local amusement park. Nowadays, there are a variety of corn mazes, including ones with scavenger hunts and haunted mazes.

However, the most American part of fall isn’t the food, but a game: football. American football first came around in the 1800s, thanks to a number of northeastern colleges. A mixture of two popular English sports, ruby and soccer, college students began playing this new football.

The first intercollegiate game was played on Nov. 6, 1869, between Princeton and Rutgers, though that game was heavier on the soccer-side of things. Within the next few years, the style of football we know today became more popular, which was more 50/50 in the soccer/rugby rules.

By 1920, the NFL, previously known as the American Professional Football Association, was founded. One hundred years later, American football is polled to be the most popular sport in the U.S. In fact, American football is popular all over the world. Even Harry Styles has a Green Bay Packers tattoo. This week marks the start of the regular NFL season, so there’s no doubt about it, fall is here.

With all that being said, happy fall y’all.

Erin Henze

Originally from Wisconsin, Erin is a recent graduate from UW-Stevens Point. Outside of writing, she loves to read and travel.