Some thoughts around seasons

Some week ago we cleared one of the wild areas in the garden, and I had the feeling of late autumn, although it was only (late) September. I enjoy autumn a lot more now, but I still have a complicated relationship with it. It still marks the end of the nicest period of the year and when it starts getting colder, I kind of give up everything outdoors, although I should prepare the garden for the winter and take nice autumn walks as I did in the past, because the autumn can be truly fabulous. I’ll probably be able to re-learn these habits, and to fall back in love with the autumn. One of the reasons I stopped enjoying it was that life became extremely stressful in the autumn, but all that has changed.

What are seasons, really?

When is it autumn? When is it winter? This is interesting, especially when you move to a country where the climate is different. Last year in early November or so, a friend of ours wrote on Facebook “What a beautiful winter day!” and I was surprised, thought to myself “What? Is it winter now?!” I wouldn’t even consider early November to be winter in Sweden!

The concept of seasons is confusing. Not that they exist, but what different people mean when they talk about the seasons. Some countries don’t even have seasons, at least not as I define them.

I’ve realised only in the last 5-10 years that other countries have different definitions. The idea of having a set date for when seasons officially start seems so weird to me, but I can see why people do it in countries with little or no real seasonal changes.

Perhaps people think I’m weird, but to me, seasons start when the weather shows that a certain season has started, not on a certain date. In Sweden we use definitions called meteorological seasons, like “meteorological spring”, which happens when there are temperatures above zero over 24 hours for at least a week (if I remember correctly) and there are similar definitions for the other seasons.  In Sweden I’ve never heard of set dates for the seasons but certain months are considered “spring months”,  “summer months” and so on, which is ridiculous because the weather is so unpredictable there. March is considered a “spring month”, but more often than not, March offers cold temperatures and LOADS of snow.

In March 2016, I posted this on Facebook with the greeting “Well, happy spring, everyone!”

”Spring” in Sweden, March 2016

My own concept of seasons

In Ireland the climate is different so the meteorological definitions obviously can’t be applied – or they could, but with other criteria. I think the seasons always have to do with the weather. These are my own definitions:

It’s autumn when it gets colder, leaves have started falling and days are shorter. It’s definitely autumn when you have to light a fire in the evening because it’s so cold inside! Or turn on the heating if you have a modern house…
It’s summer when it’s warmer, trees are green, days are longer, and flowers are in bloom.
It’s spring when nature starts to wake up and there can be decent temperatures at least during the day.
It’s winter when…what? This is a tricky one in Ireland. Ask me again next year. Perhaps when evenings and mornings are dark, they keep the fire on in the pubs, it’s cold and the weather generally sucks. Storms are frequent.

According to the ancient Celtic calendar system, the first day of spring in Ireland is on St Brigid’s day, on the 1st of February. I like that! February can be brilliant in Ireland, the daffodils are usually in bloom and days can be quite nice. And to me, the positive psychological effect of calling it spring in February is quite powerful!

I first learned about the set dates for seasons concept through reading blogs, and I can’t help it but I have been laughing at it since then. I remember a year in Sweden, it was the 22nd of June, the weather was fabulous (for once, doesn’t happen much in June!) and had been for a long time. To me it was summer. Then I read on an American blog that “Summer is finally here!” and I was like “What?! And here it’s been summer for weeks!”.  I thought the US mainly had warmer weather than Sweden, and was confused. Back then, it didn’t exist in my world that someone had decided that summer starts on a set date.

Having said all this, if there is a period of cold weather, after there’s been 30 degrees for weeks (which happens a lot in Sweden, and in Ireland too), it’s still summer if it happens in June, July or August. Which adds to the confusion, since the calendar still has some role. I get lost in my analysis here!

Summer in Vänersborg, Sweden
A lovely day that I called summer because we had near 30 degrees. But it was the 22nd of May.

The reason I started thinking about the definition of seasons, was that a few weeks ago when, on a nice, sunny and warm day, our neighbours suddenly took their garden furniture into the shed, and I wondered “Why do they do that? We can still get many more nice days!”. They even wore shorts and tank tops, but apparently had decided that summer was over. The next day I opened some social media and read that today was the first day of autumn. And I laughed. (Of course I can’t really know if the calendar was the reason that they took in their furniture, but it sure seemed like it)

I used our garden furniture after that because the weather was nice. A few days later the temperature did a nosedive though, and since 1-2 weeks it’s definitely autumn for real.

I found this article regarding seasons, which somewhat supports my idea. But still I have never ever heard anyone outside Sweden refer to season related to weather or temperatures! Also, is it really autumn the 1st of September if the temperatures are still like summer? I don’t agree with that. I think in countries with seasonal changes the only logical way to define seasons would be to look at the weather. Perhaps because I grew up with this way of thinking? Is it cultural how you look at seasons? What do you think?

So what is my point with this post? Probably nothing. But – enjoy the outdoors when you can, no matter what the calendar says. It’s not real autumn until the weather says so. And it can be summer in May.


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