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In Western cultures, personifications of autumn are usually pretty, well-fed females adorned with fruits, vegetables and grains that ripen at this time.Many cultures feature autumnal harvest festivals, often the most important on their calendars.
Perhaps the most noticeable sign of autumn in the UK is the changing colours of the leaves.
As a result of the falling temperatures in autumn, the chemical in the leaves that makes them green (chlorophyll) begins to break down while other chemicals (including Carotene) remain to give the leaves their yellow, red and brown colours.
The possibilities and opportunities of summer are gone, and the chill of winter is on the horizon.
Skies turn grey, the amount of usable daylight drops rapidly, and many people turn inward, both physically and mentally.
The alternative word fall for the season traces its origins to old Germanic languages.
The exact derivation is unclear, with the Old English fiæll or feallan and the Old Norse fall all being possible candidates. Autumn marks the transition from summer to winter, in September (Northern Hemisphere) or March (Southern Hemisphere), when the duration of daylight becomes noticeably shorter and the temperature cools considerably.One of its main features in temperate climates is the shedding of leaves from deciduous trees.However, these words all have the meaning "to fall from a height" and are clearly derived either from a common root or from each other.The term came to denote the season in 16th-century England, a contraction of Middle English expressions like "fall of the leaf" and "fall of the year".In North America, autumn traditionally starts on September 21 and ends on December 21.It is considered to start with the September equinox (21 to 24 September) Popular culture in the United States associates Labor Day, the first Monday in September, as the end of summer and the start of autumn; certain summer traditions, such as wearing white, are discouraged after that date.However, according to the Irish Calendar, which is based on ancient Gaelic traditions, autumn lasts throughout the months of August, September and October, or possibly a few days later, depending on tradition. In the Medieval period, there are rare examples of its use as early as the 12th century, but by the 16th century, it was in common use.Before the 16th century, harvest was the term usually used to refer to the season, as it is common in other West Germanic languages to this day (cf. However, as more people gradually moved from working the land to living in towns, the word harvest lost its reference to the time of year and came to refer only to the actual activity of reaping, and autumn, as well as fall, began to replace it as a reference to the season.Still extant echoes of these celebrations are found in the autumn Thanksgiving holiday of the United States and Canada, and the Jewish Sukkot holiday with its roots as a full-moon harvest festival of "tabernacles" (living in outdoor huts around the time of harvest).There are also the many North American Indian festivals tied to harvest of ripe foods gathered in the wild, the Chinese Mid-Autumn or Moon festival, and many others.