In October, autumn comes into full swing. Let’s get in the mood! Learn why it’s called October, what’s happening this month, October gardening tasks, the fall baking season, the full Harvest and Hunter’s Moons, folklore, and more!
The Month of October
This month’s name came from the Latin octo, “eight,” because this was the eighth month of the early Roman calendar. When the Romans converted to a 12-month calendar, the name October stuck, even though it’s now the 10th month! Learn more about the origins of month names.
The early Roman calendar, thought to have been introduced by Rome’s first king, Romulus (around 753 b.c) was a lunar calendar. This ancient timekeeping system contained these 10 months: Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Iunius, Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October (the eighth month), November, and December. Martius, Maius, Quintilis, and October contained 31 days, while the other months had 30, for a total of 304 days. In winter, the days were not counted for two lunar cycles.
It wasn’t until about 713 b.c. that a calendar reform, attributed to the second Roman king, Numa Pompilius, added the months Ianuarius and Februarius. Some historians think that both months were placed at the end of the year, while others believe that Ianuarius became the first month and Februarius the last. Later reforms organized the months as they are arranged today in the Gregorian calendar, whereby October became the 10th month in spite of its name.
October glows on every cheek,
October shines in every eye,
While up the hill and down the dale
Her crimson banners fly.
–Elaine Goodale Eastman (1863–1953)
October Calendar Dates
- October 9 is Leif Eriksson Day. Who was Leif Eriksson and why was he important?
- October 12 is a busy day, with three holidays packed into it:
- Canadian Thanksgiving. This holiday shares many similarities with its American equivalent. However, there are a number of things that set the Canadian Thanksgiving apart!
- Columbus Day (U.S.), a federal holiday, is observed on the second Monday in October. It was on October 12, 1492, that Christopher Columbus landed on a small island in the Bahamas, convinced that he had reached Asia. Read more about Columbus Day.
- Indigenous Peoples’ Day (U.S.)—a holiday that celebrates the history and cultures of indigenous peoples native to what is today the United States. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is celebrated in cities and states across the country, often as an alternative to Columbus Day.
- October 18 is St. Luke’s Little Summer. This is a date steeped in folklore. Traditionally, around Saint Luke’s feast day, there is a period brief period of calm, dry weather. Learn more.
- October 24 is United Nations Day, which aims to bring awareness to the work of the United Nations across the world.
- October 31 is Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve)! Do you know the true history of Halloween? It’s not as frightful as you might think… Learn about the origin of Halloween.
“Just for Fun” Dates in October
Oct. 4: International Ships-in-Bottles Day
Oct. 6: National Noodle Day
Oct. 16: National Fossil Day
Oct: 24–Nov. 11: World Origami Days
Oct. 25: Frankenstein Friday
Holiday Traditions Around the World
Chinese Moon Festival: October 1, 2020
Also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, this holiday has been celebrated for at least 3,000 years and is said to be the second largest festival in China after the Chinese New Year. Observed on the 15th day of the eighth month of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, it can occur in either September or early October in the Gregorian calendar; in 2020, it arrives on October 1.
This autumn festival falls during the full Moon nearest the fall equinox, which is traditionally said to be the brightest and roundest. Local festivities might involve brightly colored lanterns, dances, games, and other entertainments. Families and friends celebrate into the evening to give thanks for the harvest and for being together, offering each other wishes for happiness and long life and remembering loved ones who live far away.
Celebrants may make offerings to the Moon goddess Chang’e or share traditional mooncakes by moonlight. These round pastries, which symbolize the full Moon and reunion, are often filled with red bean or lotus seed paste surrounding a salted egg yolk in the center.
October Astronomy and the Moon
October 2020 Brings Two Full Moons
The first full Moon of fall—in this case, the Harvest Moon—will appear on Thursday, October 1. Later in the month, on Saturday, October 31 (Halloween), the second full Moon appears. This is the Hunter’s Moon, which will be special for two reasons: it’s a rare Halloween full Moon and a Blue Moon!
- Learn more about October’s full Moons.
- Find out when the Moon will be visible: Moon Rise and Set Calculator.
Also keep an eye out for the Draconid meteor shower in the late evening of October 9, and the Orionid meteor shower in the predawn hours of October 21–22. See our Meteor Shower Calendar for more information.
The Leaves They Are a-Changin’
With the autumnal equinox in late September, foliage season has officially begun across much of the U.S. See when fall foliage peaks.
Why do leaves turn color? Did you know that fall’s vivid colors are actually hidden underneath summer’s green? The main reason for color change is not autumn’s chilly weather, but light—or rather, the lack of it. The green color of leaves disappears when photosynthesis (from sunlight) slows down. Trees with a lot of direct sunlight will produce red leaves, while other trees may turn yellow, orange or brown.
October is all about ending the harvest and storing your crops. See our tips on storing vegetables, fruits, and herbs.
If you’re interested in growing pumpkins for next Halloween, see our Pumpkins Growing Guide.
Review our list of October Gardening Tasks to see what garden work should be done in October in your area.
Find much more advice and facts about our favorite orange vegetable (no offense, carrots):
- How to Cook and Clean Pumpkins
- Dealing with Pumpkin Sprawl (podcast)
- History of Carving Halloween Pumpkins (video)
Favorite Fall Recipes
With October’s harvest and cooler temperatures, we kick off the fall baking season! Let’s get in the mood:
- Blue Ribbon Pumpkin Pie
- Pumpkin Spice Cookies
- Fresh Apple Crumble Bars
- Apple Cider Bread or Muffins
- Pumpkin Spice Mix
Preparing for Halloween? See Halloween Recipes, Treats, and Crafts.
October Birth Flowers
October’s birth flowers are the cosmos and the calendula or marigold. Cosmos is a symbol of joy in life and love and of peace. The calendula (aka garden, English, or pot marigold) represents winning grace, grief, or chagrin in the language of flowers. Find out more about October’s birth flowers.
Image: Cosmos flowers
The October birthstone is the opal, which symbolizes faithfulness and confidence.
- Gem-quality opals are known for their play of color, caused by the diffraction of light. They are available in several types, including black, fire, and white opals. Common opals do not shimmer.
- Opals symbolize hope and purity and were once thought to improve eyesight or enhance intuition. Throughout history, the gem’s reputation has oscillated between standing for luck and standing for lack of luck. According to some, those born in October are immune from any possible negative effects.
Find out more about October’s birthstone.
An opal found in Australia. Photo by Hannes Grube/Wikimedia Commons.
Joke of the Month
Q. What is a pumpkin’s favorite sport?
Folklore for the Season
- When deer are in a gray coat in October, expect a hard winter.
- Much rain in October, much wind in December.
- A warm October means a cold February.
- In October dung your field, and your land its wealth shall yield.
- Good October, a good blast,
To blow the hog acorn and mast.
[tree fruit upon which wild animals feed]