This is the tenth month in the Julian and Gregorian calendars and has 31 days. October got its name because ‘oct’ comes from the Latin word ‘octo’, which means eight. Confused? That’s because in Roman times, around 750 B.C., the Romulus calendar lacked the months of January and February, making October the eighth month of the year.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the month of October is generally associated with autumn, also known as fall, with spring commencing in the southern hemisphere. Zodiac signs associated with October are Libra and Scorpio as these star constellations can be seen in the night sky during this time.
Many cultures, religions and nationalities celebrate in October. In the Jewish faith, Rosh Hashanah, which marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year and celebrates the creation of Adam and Eve, comes to an end at the start of October. A week later, it is followed by another important Jewish occasion, Yom Kippur which is also known as the Day of Atonement.
In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated in October, unlike November in the U.S. As a harvest festival, Thanksgiving celebrates the Pilgrims of 1621 surviving their first winter thanks to the help of Native American people showing them how to hunt and grow crops. Later in October, Hindus celebrate Diwali, which is a Festival of Lights. It is dictated by the moon, so the exact date changes each year. As one of the most popular Hindu festivals, the two-day event is celebrated by millions of people around the world by lighting candles and lamps and honoring the god Rama.
Perhaps the most famous celebration in October comes at the end of the month – Halloween. An ancient pagan festival taking place on the 31st of October, it was known in ancient times as All Hallows’ or All Saints’ Day. Pagans believed that on this day, spirits would rise up to cause mischief. It’s now a popular pastime in America and Canada, where children dress up in costumes and visit neighboring houses to get candy through ‘trick or treating’.
In history, Christopher Columbus famously made landfall in the Americas on 12 October 1492. Known today as Columbus Day or Native American Day as a counter-celebration, Columbus arrived in the Bahamas and claimed it for the Spanish Crown.
In the late 19th-century, the Great Fire of Chicago ripped through the city in 1871 when a fallen lantern set a barn on fire. Over 3,5 square miles were devastated, leaving 300 people dead, 90,000 homeless, and a financial cost of over $200 million.
In the early 20th century, the world was revolutionized by Henry Ford’s assembly production line, that resulted in the Ford Model T becoming the first affordable and mass-produced motorcar (1908). This form of industrialization would also revolutionalize warfare when WWII broke out in 1939.
Indeed, a year prior, on 1 October 1938, Hitler escalated tensions when his troops occupied a portion of Czechoslovakia. Hoping to avoid another war, Britain and France took the route of appeasement and let Hitler take the territory. In October 1939, physics genius Albert Einstein warned President FDR that his theories could be used by the Nazis to create an atomic bomb.
Following WWII, further seismic changes occurred when Mao Zedong declared himself the Chairman of the People’s Republic of China. Such growth in Communism between the USSR and China served as a significant threat to the Western world, America in particular.
Indeed, Berlin, Germany, was a focal point of the Cold War with the Berlin Wall being a physical representation of the ideological divisions of Germany and between East and West. It was only on 3 October 1990 that East and West Germany were reunited as the Federal Republic of Germany. Leaps in science and technology also came about as a consequence of the superpower standoff: The space race between the USSR and the US saw the Russians launched Sputnik I in 1957.
Looking at American history through the month of October, in the lead up to the American Revolutionary War, the Stamp Act Congress convened in 1765 to protest the British Stamp Act. In 1775, the Second Continental Congress authorized the formation of the Navy, while in 1792 the cornerstone of the White House was laid by President George Washington. This is still the official residence of serving US presidents. As a major win for African-American equality in the US, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as the first African-American associate justice of the US Supreme Court in 1967.
Notable figures born in October include: Christopher Wren (1632), Molly Pitcher (1754), James Cook (1728), Theodore Roosevelt (1858), Oscar Wilde (1854), Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi (1869), Eleanor Roosevelt (1884), Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890), Dylan Thomas (1914), John Lennon (1940).