Winterfylleth

Did you know that according to the Anglo-Saxons, (back in the 5th century) October was known as Winterfylleth because, at that particular full moon, winter was supposed to begin?  As I write that line I can hear the theme tune to Game of Thrones in my head.

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Anyway, October is the month we take stock.  We leave summer behind and we anticipate winter.  Winds are shaking our trees bare of leaves and the glorious autumnal colours are receding leaving only winter nudity.  The days are getting shorter and the nights stretch out in front of the fire, cosy, with curtains pulled and plans for the fun of Halloween.

Internationally, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  All of us know someone who has been affected by breast cancer.  Think of them, offer support and remind the women you love that early detection saves lives.  BreastCheck is a government-funded programme that provides free mammograms for women aged between 50 and 69.  It is a fantastic service, free of charge and extremely efficient.  It is the one part of our health service that actually does what it sets out to do.  Can other sectors take note?

In the Catholic Church, October is the Month of the Holy Rosary.  October 7th is the feast day of the Our Lady of the Rosary.  The word Rosary comes from Latin and means ‘crown of roses.’  The rose is symbolic of the Virgin Mary.  If you have been raised in Ireland you will be familiar with the Rosary.  Love it or hate it, it is ingrained into our psyche.  We have recited it in school; we have recited it at home.  We have recited it at wakes and first communions and sometimes in our bed at night as we wrestle with life’s challenges.

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And if beer is one of your life challenges you may already know that around the world October signals Oktoberfest.  An important part of Bavarian culture the Oktoberfest is an 18-day folk festival celebrated since 1810.  It runs from late September to the first weekend in October with an annual attendance of more than 6 million people from around the world.  Migrants have brought that culture to their chosen countries and Oktoberfest is now celebrated worldwide.  Outside of Germany the largest Oktoberfest is in Ontario attracting over 700,000 visitors annually.  Brazil comes a close second with the United States cities of Cincinnati, Ohio with 500,000 visitors and Denver, Colorado at 450,000 chasing their tail.  Oktoberfest is celebrated by Bavarian migrants in Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Australia, China, Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Russia, and South Africa.  And not to be outdone, Dublin hosts it’s Oktoberfest at George’s Dock until the 6th October.  Did I leave anyone out?

Saint days in October include St Francis of Assisi, Patron of Animals, Merchants and Ecology.  It also includes St. Odhran of Iona, an abbot from Meath, who journeyed to Scotland and was the first Irish monk to die at Iona.  The patron saint of Waterford, he was of the era when we earned our reputation for being the land of saints and scholars.  Those days are long gone.

To sum up, October is a great month.  A month to utilise the last of the heat of the sun to tidy the garden, to remove what summer has discarded and plant your bulbs for next spring.  A month to batten down the hatches, so to speak, and get your home ready for the cold and damp of the winter months.  It is a month when the routine of back to school is well established and mid-term is already rearing its head with plans for dressing up and bonfires and barmbrack and fun.  Get out there and kick up some Autumn leaves.

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