Home Culture & Wellness The Origins of Your Favorite Fall Traditions

The Origins of Your Favorite Fall Traditions


Written by Zoe Manoukian

With the first week of September behind us, we are now approaching the autumnal equinox and the first few unofficial days of fall are underway. The months of September through November possibly bear the fruits most reminiscent of a cherished Americana for reasons both including and beyond the season’s abundance of apples and gourds. The telltale chill in the air is sure to evoke thoughts of sweaters and spice and spirits, and as evolved as certain festivities are, many of them are rooted in a longstanding American tradition. Below is described the history behind five of our beloved autumn traditions!

  1. Apple Picking! According to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the 1800s brought to us the affinity for the day at the apple orchard. The countryside served as a refuge for city dwellers tiring in the heat. Visitors found the whole bucolic ordeal to be just as charming as we find it today. The growing apple mania came to fruition in 1905, when the United States Department of Agriculture published a list of 17,000 different apple names. Tim Hensley  of BBG writes that apples were “critically reviewed and rated with the enthusiasm now reserved for Hollywood movies and popular music.”
  2. The Haunted House! The origins of the haunted house can also be traced all the way back to the 19th century according to the Smithsonian. Marie Tussaud, or Madame Tussauds as we might know her today, exhibited a gruesome series of wax figures in 1802, including a decapitated King Louis, Marie Antoinette, Marat and Robespierre. Others began to follow suit at the turn of the century and presented audiences with horrific images and scenes. These developments led to the debut of the first haunted house, or “ghost house” as it was called, in the fairgrounds of 1915 England. Haunted houses grew in popularity in the United States during the Great Depression as parents needed to occupy their children to keep them from partaking in crime.
  3. Trick or Treating and the Bedsheet Ghost! Halloween and trick-or-treating evolved during the 19th century potato famine. The influx of Irish immigrants brought us elements of Irish paganism that we see incorporated into our spooky traditions today. The Daily Beast points towards the 1916 children’s book “Halloween at Merrywale” for illustrating a Halloween party, and Norman Rockwell for illustrating a young bedsheet clad “ghost” and her fear-feigning grandfather for a 1920 cover of the Saturday Evening Post.
  4. Pumpkin Spice! The original spice was created by McCormick & Company in 1934 as a way to inspire and facilitate more saporous pies among home bakers. The spice consisted of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and allspice. According to Smart Brief, a survey conducted by Spice Islands shows that during autumn 66% Americans have 1-3 pumpkin spice products per week.
  5. Corduroy! We are currently in the midst of a ’70s fashion revival and this means that corduroy is back in style. According to Toast, a fabric similar to corduroy may have emerged in 200 B.C. in the Egyptian city Fustat and made its way to Europe where the wealthy used it as a lining for gowns. The heavy fabric was given its emblematic ridges by 18th century British textile manufacturers, and the word “Corduroy” was used for the first time in 1774. It has been suggested that the word “Corduroy” is an Anglicism for “Cord du Roi,” or “king’s cord,” but this supposition has been since disproven. Corduroy has often been seen as the working man’s fabric, and has even been considered to be anti-establishment and radical. At other times, however, it has been deemed intellectual or sporty, such as the 1970s when fashion icons such as Jane Birkin and Brigitte Bardot wore it perfectly. Thankfully this fall fabric is fashionable once more!