The name November derives from the Latin “novem” or nine, since this month was originally ninth in the Roman calendar. The Old English name was Blotmonath, literally “blood month,” a reference to the time of year when the early Saxons butchered animals to ready their store of winter food. Another ancient Saxon name for November was “wint-monath” or “wind month,” since increasingly cold and dangerous winds forced seafarers to stow their boats until spring.
The November Garden
In many parts of the country, November is a time to put your garden to bed. Some like to have everything ultra-tidy and ready for spring; others prefer a more natural look, leaving plant stems to serve as animal habitats and seed heads to feed birds. At the very least, however, you will want to remove any diseased foliage. This is especially important for the leaves of perennials such as peony and iris, since they can harbor fungus or destructive insects over the winter.
Other items your November garden to-do list may include:
• prepare bulbs such as amaryllis, narcissus and hyacinths for forcing
• recycle fallen leaves for mulch
• drain and store hoses
• apply a winterizing formula fertilizer to your lawn
• attend to garden tools by sharpening, oiling and cleaning
• continue watering evergreens until the ground is frozen
• decrease water and fertilizer to indoor plants
"Indian Summer" refers to a period of sunny, hazy and unseasonably warm weather that often occurs after a killing frost, usually in late October to mid-November. Such beautiful late autumn weather is typically caused by warm southerly winds moving in a clockwise fashion around a large area of high pressure, according to the National Weather Service. This weather phenomenon received mention in farmer’s almanacs as early as colonial times. There are many theories behind the origin of the term "Indian summer." Jamie K. Oxendine, who is of Lumbee/Creek descent and serves as director of the Black Swamp InterTribal Foundation, points out that long before the Europeans settled in New England, the Algonquians welcomed the late autumn warmth as a wind sent from the Creator Cautantowwit, whose house was in the southwest. Other Native American people also recognized the pleasant fall interlude -- the Haudenosaunee called it “Lateness Warmth,” while many tribes including the Powhattan in Virginia and the Muscokee Creek in Georgia referred to it as “Little Summer.”
Veterans Day, observed on November 11, honors all those who served in the United States Armed Forces. Each year an official ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery includes laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The day originally commemorated an armistice occurring on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, signaling the end of hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War. November 11 was at first called Armistice Day, but after World War II and the Korean War, the holiday became known as Veterans Day in recognition of American veterans of all wars.
Celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, Thanksgiving is one of America’s favorite days. The Thanksgiving meal, which commonly includes turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce and of course pumpkin pie, is probably more tradition-bound than that of any other holiday. Contrary to legend, the three-day feast shared by the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians was not the basis of our annual national observance. Although the colony's leaders did periodically proclaim days of thanksgiving, they were spent in prayer rather than feasting. The concept of “thanksgiving” was also familiar to the Wampanoag people, who like other Native Americans, offered thanks for harvested crops and hunted food during ceremonies and celebrations.
Topaz or Citrine
The name of November’s birthstone, the topaz, most likely derives from a Saskrit word meaning “fire.” This gemstone can be found in a number of colors, but the deep golden-yellow variety is most closely associated with November. The more readily available and thus less expensive yellow citrine, or topaz quartz, often substitutes as this month’s birthstone. The citrine, from the French “citron,” or lemon, can be bright yellow, golden or golden-brown. The colors of both the topaz and the citrine are reminiscent of glowing autumn leaves.
November’s birth flower, the chrysanthemum, is both a popular florist flower and a fall gardening staple. Long revered in East Asian cultures, the mum has been bred in a rich variety of flower shapes and a rainbow of colors. This flower is a common ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. In Japan, where the “kiku” or mum is a symbol of royalty, there is even a national chrysanthemum day called the Festival of Happiness. Easily cultivated and long lasting, chrysanthemums are the largest commercially produced flower in the U.S., according to the National Chrysanthemum Society. These cheerful, spicy-scented flowers symbolize friendship, optimism and joy.
National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office: Just What Is Indian Summer and Did Indians Really Have Anything to Do With It?; William R. Deedler; 1996
PowWows.com: “Indian Summer”; Jamie K. Oxendine; July 21, 2011
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: History of Veterans Day
History.com: Mayflower Myths
“Sunset at Sussana Farms” by Clint McMahon
“Indian Summer” by William Trost Richards; 1875; in the public domain
”In Flanders Field” illustration; John McCrae and Ernest Clegg; 1921; in the public domain
Azotic topaz by Humanfeather
Chrysanthemum x grandiflorum ‘Shaman’s Vision’ by DG member Equilibrium
Tazetta Narcissus 'Ziva' by DG member ellopj
all other images in the public domain
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on November 3, 2011. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)