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Autumn History and Traditions

Updated on September 29, 2012

The History of Autumn Symbols and Fall Traditions

We refer to most seasons by the names that were commonly used by our ancestors. Winter is from the German word meaning a "time of water" highlighting the seasons rain and snowfall. Spring comes from the Old English word "sprying" as it refers to the creation of a spring due to the melting snow and ice left from winter.

The word autumn comes from the original Latin word "autumnus". The alternate term, fall, originated with the Germans but became commonplace with the mid16th century English who typically referred to fall as meaning "the fall of the leaves." Here's a look at some common symbols and traditions associated with Fall or Autumn...



The Scarecrow

Straw Men

Scarecrows are found in some form, in almost every culture around the world. Traditionally they are made in the shape of a man with his arms held outstretched, the scarecrow is dressed up in old clothes and hung high above a farmer's crops to frighten away crows and other would-be scavengers.

The earliest known record of "straw men" comes from Japan in 712, where they were known as the "kuebiko". These omniscient god-like creatures had no bones and because of their crippled form were propped on poles to watch over and protect the villagers.

Scarecrow Vistor

Scarecrow Shelf Sitter Fall Festival, Fall Decor, Harvest Decor
Scarecrow Shelf Sitter Fall Festival, Fall Decor, Harvest Decor

Charming, colorfully decorated scarecrow ready and waiting for the Harvest Festival to begin.


Pick your Favorite Fall Symbol


What is Your Favorite Autumn Symbol?

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Cornucopia or Horn-of-Plenty


The cornucopia is a time-honored symbol of abundance and has come to be associated with Thanksgiving, but in reality this image has been around much longer then our traditional Thanksgiving holiday.

The word "cornucopia" actually dates back to the 5th century BC. It derives from two Latin words: "cornu," meaning horn; stemming from the mythological one horned unicorn and "copia," meaning copious or plenty. Thus, "cornucopia" literally means the horn of plenty, and the names are used interchangeably.. In ancient times it was typically represented as a curved goat's horn overflowing with the harvest seasons fruits and grains.

Image: Microsoft word


Chrysanthemum and the Dragonfly

Japanese Symbols for Autumn

The Japanese consider chrysanthemums symbolic of integrity and endurance and as such, it eventually became a common representation of the autumn harvest season.

The dragonfly signifies victory and martial success. It is also a symbol of summer's end and autumn's arrival.

Image: Microsoft word

Dragonfly Windchimes

JapanBargain Japanese Iwachu Cast Iron Dragonfly Wind Chimes
JapanBargain Japanese Iwachu Cast Iron Dragonfly Wind Chimes

Ring in the season with this charming dragonfly windchime

Fall Harvest
Fall Harvest

Autumn Harvest Festivals

Traditions Celebrated Around The World

Annual harvest festivals and thanksgiving celebrations were historically held in ancient Greece, the Roman empire, in China and most recently in America.

In ancient times, farmers believed that their crops were controlled by spirits which could bless the crops to grow or curse them to die. It was thought these spirits were only released and destroyed when the crops were harvested. Some of the earliest harvest festivals celebrated the defeat of these spirits.

The Greeks

The ancient Greeks worshiped the fertility goddess, Demeter as the protector of the harvest. Each autumn she was honored at the festival of Thesmosphoriam where on the third day of the celebration, a feast was held and offerings of corn, cakes, fruit, and pigs were made In the hope that her gratitude would grant them a good harvest.

The Romans

The Romans also celebrated a harvest festival and feast every October 4th called Cerelia, which honored Ceres (from which the word cereal comes) their goddess of grains. The first fruits of the harvest were given as gifts to Ceres.

The Chinese

Each year with the full moon that falls on the 15th day of the 8th month, the Chinese celebrate their mid-autumn moon festival, "Chung Ch'ui". This is considered to be the moon's birthday. Round, yellow "moon cakes" are baked and stamped with rabbits because according to ancient Chinese legend it is a rabbit that is seen on the face of the moon.. It is said that during the 3 day festival, a bounty of flowers falls from the moon and those who see them will be rewarded with good fortune throughout the year.

The United States

In 1621, after a harsh, long, hard first year, pilgrim's who had settled in the new world finally reaped a bountiful fall harvest. With enough fruits, corn, vegetables, and cured meat stockpiled to last throughout the coming winter., the Governor proclaimed a day of thanksgiving to be shared by all the colonists and the neighboring Native American Indians.

This tradition of an annually celebrated thanksgiving, held after the harvest, continued throughout the years and in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln officially made it a national holiday.

Your Favorite Way to Celebrate Autumn?

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    • bbsoulful2 profile image

      bbsoulful2 5 years ago

      Blessed by a Squid Angel!

    • bbsoulful2 profile image

      bbsoulful2 5 years ago

      Driving across the countryside to look at the autumn colors, and stopping at random places to walk...

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      slotowngal 5 years ago

      Warm, spiced apple cider and a piece of pumpkin pie!

    • LynetteBell profile image

      LynetteBell 5 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      I love the colors of autumn...we have a little way to go before we welcome autumn (NZ)

    • CreativeExpress profile image

      CreativeExpress 5 years ago

      I love to create a Fall Bucket List with favorite traditions and activities and thoroughly enjoy the season!

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      crstnblue 5 years ago

      Very nice, colorful lens! Thanks for sharing!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Taking walks in the nature with my family. Even if you take the same path, every day is something different.

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 5 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      Lovely lens. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because for me, it's a time of counting my blessings and refocusing all of my gratefulness and joy back onto God. It's easy to lose sight of goodness and grace sometimes; Harvest is a reminder of just how much I have been given that I did not earn nor do I deserve, yet it's mine to enjoy and share!

    • ShineRita profile image

      ShineRita 5 years ago

      So beautiful!! Autumn is my favorite!

    • parwatisingari lm profile image

      parwatisingari lm 5 years ago

      sharada vadhu, or the bride of autum (nature) as the poet Kalidasa describes is a gold hue

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      pinoyrecipe 5 years ago

      cool!!! those trees are awesome

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      Watching the moon with family and friends, eating moon cakes, a glass of hawthorn wine, and reading poetry.

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      MintySea 5 years ago

      I cannot wait till thanksgiving while I love the food I just want to spend time with my family

    • Mandy Stradley profile image

      Mandy Stradley 5 years ago

      Beautiful Lens!

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 5 years ago

      Making lens about autumn )

    • jdwheeler profile image

      jdwheeler 5 years ago

      Really enjoyed learning some history behind these symbols. Thanks for sharing.

    • cameras14 profile image

      cameras14 5 years ago

      walking in the street near my house when the leaves go down, so romantic when on date !

    • bwet profile image

      bwet 5 years ago

      love to watch the trees and the change in foliage.

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      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      I celebrate the wisdom of an elder year. And I watch its beauty unfold with the changing colors.

    • SheilaMilne profile image

      SheilaMilne 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      I love walking in the woods, under trees, and kicking up the fallen leaves.

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 5 years ago

      I love everything about autumn. Great lens!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Just taking walks in the wonderfully cooler air!

    • lillywest10 profile image

      lillywest10 5 years ago

      I love creating wreaths, crafting, and cooking! Fall smells and scenery are so gorgeous!

    • Jack2205 profile image

      Jack 5 years ago

      I love to take pictures of the beautiful colors.

    • sunny saib profile image

      sunny saib 5 years ago

      Great lens :)

    • TheBLU26 profile image

      TheBLU26 5 years ago

      Walking in the parks and woods, enjoying the beauty of nature and taking photographs of the scenery.

    • thememorybooksh1 profile image

      thememorybooksh1 5 years ago

      Great nicely done..

    • profile image

      miaponzo 5 years ago

      Back for a blessing! :)

    • profile image

      olmpal 5 years ago

      Love fall and the beautifully colored leaves! And the wet soil smell...

    • TeacherSerenia profile image

      TeacherSerenia 5 years ago

      Wonderful lens, Spotted this on the Home page.

    • TeacherSerenia profile image

      TeacherSerenia 5 years ago

      Wonderful lens, Spotted this on the Home page.

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 5 years ago from Kansas

      Start on some knitting projects or start baking. Love the cooler weather!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      We are now staying in a hotel owned by Chinese friends and we were welcomed with moon cakes and tea when we arrived last night. It is said that when you drink tea on this particular day, the Moon's birthday, you will become beautiful.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      A feast in the beauty of all the colored leaves would be perfect. The new autumn theme reminds me of my Mom's yard where I grew up, its full of birches so it had this wonderful golden glow that always reminds me of home. I love the history lesson you gave us from other nations as well and especially enjoy the dragonfly, they have always fascinated me. Nicely done!

    • siobhanryan profile image

      siobhanryan 5 years ago

      Love the moon--Blessed

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Very nice lens. I like the way it is put together.

    • profile image

      Hannah Writes 5 years ago

      Beautiful lens, especially against the new autumn theme. It is my favorite season!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I loved the way you've presented your information.. Nice research.. :)

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 5 years ago from Somewhere in England

      I don't really celebrate autumn, it makes me a bit sad.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Love to watch the trees, autumn and fall foliage.

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      RinchenChodron 6 years ago

      Feast with family and friends - also take photos.

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image

      JoyfulReviewer 6 years ago

      Enjoying nature's bounty and beauty always renews my "attitude of gratitude". Congratulations on your lens being featured on the Fall Harvest Fest monsterboard.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 6 years ago from Shanghai, China

      I put on a cd of trumpet concertos in my car - rather loud - and drive around glorying in the leaves.

    • profile image

      miaponzo 6 years ago

      I love taking walks in the brisk air :) not really celebrating but...