Every year, it seems like everyone is ready to shirk summer earlier than the seasons are ready for and break out the pumpkin spice and flannel scarves. The apple-scented candles come out, you go out and buy new dish towels with falling leaves on them and throw all of your cash for the rest of the year into oversized sweaters.
And it's even more apparent when you scroll through social media. People love sharing their readiness for fall and how they’re preparing, however ~basic~ it may be. In fact, a 2013 study found that nearly a third of Americans consider fall their favorite season -- and I’m sure that number has only increased from there.
But yet, we don’t collectively decorate our homes with renderings of the sun or decorate our air conditioners when summer is approaching. We don’t consider florals part of our very personality when May comes to town. Why is it only fall that delights the masses in this precise way?
While recognizing that, yes, some people don’t fall into the autumnal hole of Starbucks, HomeGoods and the $3 section at Target, and in fact, the cooling temperatures are actually a trigger for those who experience seasonal affective disorder, there is -- believe it or not -- some scientific processes going on behind the scenes when we sip that first salted-caramel-pumpkin-spice-warm-cinnamon latte of the year.
Most of it has to do with nostalgia; because the fall used to -- and perhaps still does -- signify a lovely, comforting, exciting time of year for us (a new school year, new clothes, seeing friends every day again), we’re predisposed to bring those warm, happy feelings into adulthood with us.
Kathryn Lively, professor of sociology at Dartmouth College, told the Huffington Post that it signifies a fresh start and a clean slate that we then use to motivate us and start looking forward to things.
"We’re conditioned from a very early age that the autumn comes with all these exciting things," she said. "We still respond to this pattern that we experienced for 18 years."
Plus, the beginning of fall marks the beginning of event and tradition season; while we celebrate holidays during the summer, the real family-oriented holidays (Thanksgiving, Rosh Hashanah, Christmas) are all bunched together at the end of the year, and we happily anticipate them.
"We all crave the comfort and security that comes with traditions and predictability," Amy Jane Griffiths, Ph.D, N.C.S.P., a licensed psychologist from Chapman University, told Bustle. "They may relate to joyful experiences with friends and family and provide something to look forward to."
And, at the end of the day, fall is comforting. Cozy blankets, warm soup, burning candles, big sweaters, roaring fires -- even if you don’t actively participate in these tropes of autumn, doesn’t reading them just naturally make you feel good?
Adrienne Matei put it best for the Guardian last year: "Come fall, we may feel a heady mix of nostalgic yearning, renewed optimism and abstract melancholy." We’re remembering past happiness, looking forward to good things to come and also allowing ourselves to succumb to the subtle somberness that colder, darker days beget.
All of these ideas, Griffiths also explained, are likely far more powerful this year, which would explain the outpouring of autumnal fervor on social media. We likely won’t be gathering with large groups of our families this year; we’re desperate for sources of comfort in difficult times and overwhelming environments and are continuously looking for ways to restore a sense of normalcy or control, whether that’s trying a new hobby or finally pledging to cook at home more. Cuddling up in a wool blanket with your favorite fuzzy socks on and a steaming mug of apple cider in your hands sounds...divine.
And if that all makes you happy -- we greatly encourage it.