November comes from the Latin “novem,” which means “nine.” It was the ninth month of the ten-month Roman calendar, and retained its name even after two more months were added.
Daylight Savings Time ended on Sunday, November 1, so we set our clocks back one hour at 2 a.m. that day. (“Spring forward; fall back.”)
American Election Day takes place on the Tuesday following the first Monday of November, so this year it’s November 3. In even-numbered years, the House of Representatives are elected to two-year terms, while approximately one-third of the US Senate is elected to six-year terms. Though now controversial, these term limits were originally implemented to guarantee an abundance of experienced senators at all times.
November 2 is All Souls Day, or El Día de los Muertos in Latin America, where the tradition originated. It celebrates the temporary return of the spirits of the dead and the end of the harvest season. Altars are traditionally arranged with the deceased’s favorite foods and objects. In some parts of Latin America, the entire community gathers at the cemetery to decorate, make repairs, and remember those buried there.
November 5 is the 410th anniversary of the failed Gunpowder Plot by a group of Jesuits who tried to assassinate the king in 1605 by blowing up the House of Lords to protest the oppression of Catholics in England.
The king’s men uncovered the plot and arrested Guy Fawkes, who refused to confess for several days, even under torture. The conspirators were drawn-and-quartered and disemboweled while still conscious, and then hanged. Fawkes jumped the gallows and broke his neck, thus avoiding this final torment. The British government ordered observation of “Gunpowder Treason Day,” which became known as Guy Fawkes Day and expanded beyond Britain.
November 11 is Veterans Day in the US, Remembrance Day in Canada, and Armistice Day elsewhere. In most countries, it is a commemoration of World War I and a day to reflect on world peace. It began that way in the US when Calvin Coolidge signed 1926 legislation declaring the holiday. Then in 1954, Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill changing its purpose to honoring all those who have served in the US Armed Forces.
The Leonids Meteor Shower peaks November 17. The Leonids occurs every fall when the star Gamma Leonis produces a storm. Every 33 years, the show is spectacular, but that won’t happen again until 2034.
Although somewhat overshadowed by Christmas advertising, Thanksgiving Day in the US is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, which is the 26th this year. The “first Thanksgiving” probably refers to a three-day harvest festival at Plimouth Plantation (the actual spelling back then) in 1621, which likely occurred at the end of September.
Its portrayal as a day of peacemaking between European settlers and the Indians they displaced is mostly fiction. The settlers had overtaken the Wampanoag village of Patuxet. The Wampanoag were not invited to the harvest feast and, when they stumbled upon it after hearing gunshots, there was not enough food to feed them. Between disease and settler attacks, the number of Wampanoag dropped from 100,000 to 5,000.
While many Americans are eating turkey with their families, the Wampanoag and other Native people from around the country gather at the site of what was once Patuxet to acknowledge it as a Day of Mourning.
The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday, in which shoppers flock to retail stores to snap up items on sale. Use of the term dates back to 1961, when city police coined “Black Friday” to refer to massive traffic jams and overcrowded streets and stores.
Disliking the negative connotation, businesses began claiming that Black Friday is the first day of the year in which they turn a profit—or go from “running in the red” to “in the black.” However, most businesses aren’t so reliant on Christmas sales that they could afford to wait until November to turn a profit, and most in fact turn a profit at various times throughout the year.
Football games used to be an even bigger Thanksgiving tradition than they are now, with high schools and colleges hosting local games over the weekend. Only a remnant of that remains in Dallas and Detroit, where, in 1934, the NFL sponsored a Thanksgiving Day game between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears. It sold 20,000 tickets and the Bears won an upset victory, cementing the Turkey Day football tradition.
Look for an average temp of 30 degrees this November (one degree above average). A snowstorm might be on tap later in the month, possibly even on Thanksgiving Day, so be safe if you’re going out for Black Friday.