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Falling for Autumn: why are autumn traditions in the US so at odds with the weather?

Eleanor Curtis

Tuesday, 7 November 2023

Across social media, Americans living in the southern states are giving a taste of their fall décor. However, this is completely at odds with the weather in the places they live, consisting of orange leaves and pumpkins. Is there a reason for this cultural difference, or is it just something we must accept about the American experience?

For us in the United Kingdom, autumn means a cooling down, a marked change in the seasons. It is usually rung in by wind and rain, and as the leaves change from verdant to burnished gold, temperatures drop and layered knitwear makes an appearance. However, in the southern states of the US, the season of autumn is simply marked by the appearance of pumpkins, and burnt orange porch décor. Why is the culture of ‘fall’ so reminiscent of English weather in a place where the temperatures rarely drop below twenty degrees centigrade?


Perhaps the most iconic representation of fall in the US is Caitlin Covington, the face of so called ‘Christian girl autumn’. She rose to notoriety by documenting her obsession with pumpkin spice, sweater dresses, and knee-high boots on Instagram, becoming the archetypal representation of the American fascination with Fall. Covington, 33, makes an annual ‘pilgrimage’ from her home in Charlotte, North Carolina, to the wooded countryside of Vermont, timing her trip to experience the optimum orange leaves.


While iconic, she is not the only thing that comes to mind when thinking about the cooler months in the American south. Think pumpkin patches and orange toned door wreaths, sleeveless cable knits, and fake leaves on front lawns. Why is this such a widely seen cultural practice? Why are the American south so obsessed with the out of season?


Generally, fall in the states is the beginning of many cultural landmarks, like the football season, back to school, and preparations for winter. But this is the same across all 50 states, as well as here across the pond. This idea of a culturally important season of ‘fall’ does not explain the obsession with fake unseasonal décor in the south.


Perhaps it has something to do with the origins of the United States, and the colonial progression from the north – where the weather and seasons are much the same as they are here – across the west and southern areas of the continent. Perhaps this cultural iconography conveys a sense of nostalgia, think the quintessential americana moment. These decorations and obsessions conjure images of small towns, community, harvest, and abundance. Perhaps here there is evidence of the desire to return to the ‘good old days’. However, it could all simply be the work of consumerism, that very American ideology, where the buying power of the dollar drives cultural consumption.


Fall ends with the important cultural festival of Thanksgiving, which in its inception, incorporates real autumnal ideas of harvest, warming foods, and a convivial ‘northern’ feast. Perhaps this is also where these cultural elements find their derivation. However, after Thanksgiving, the plastic pumpkins and fake leaves get replaced by frosted Christmas trees and fake snow, so perhaps the Southern States’ obsession with decorating according to the seasons of the north is simply ingrained in their lifestyle. For a place where it hardly ever snows to be decked out in white across the Christmas period, there must be something integral to the society going on.

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Copyright free photo by Erica Marsland Huynh on Unsplash.


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Autumn Decorations USA Fall Weather Eleanor Curtis

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Culture Thought Piece Global Culture

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Barbara Dawson

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Lovely tasty dish. Try it you won’t be disappointed.

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Aunty Liz

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Very tasty and cheap. I often have this for tea!

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BETTS

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Being a bilingual family (French mother and British father,) living in France I thought your article was extremely interesting . Have you research on bilingualism ? It seems that when the mother is British and the father French and they both live in France their children seem to be more bilingual than when the mother is French and the father is British . This is what we called mother tongue , isn't it ?

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Niamh

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Such an interesting article!

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