Every year it feels like the pumpkin spice craze is coming earlier and earlier. While some of these products may be blatant marketing ploys, certain segments of society seem to welcome it with open arms every time. From coffee and candles to deodorant, pumpkin spice is everywhere – a signal that’s falling on us again. Even though it’s still 90 degrees outside and there’s no gold leaf in sight, suddenly it’s time for fires, apple picking and cozy sweaters. Fall begins when we say it does!
But why are so many people craving this season’s return? What are we really looking for when we cling to the edge of the fall garment, hoping it will wrap around us sooner than before?
Part of it is nostalgia. Part of it is the warmth that the season brings. But it could also just be the events of the past 18 months that make many of us feel ready for early fall.
With autumn comes nostalgia
Part of the joyful anticipation of fall is just that: anticipation. When our mouths drool imagining hot cups of apple cider and pumpkin bread, it’s the anticipation that turns us on, rather than the actual reward, says a psychologist.
“So in August we think fall is just around the corner, we anticipate all the good things to come,” said Richard Lopez, professor of psychology at Bard College.
There are powerful clues playing into the nostalgia surrounding fall – perhaps even more so than with other seasons. There’s a choking in the air, the leaves are different colors, the kids and their oversized backpacks are going to school – all of these signs are triggers that often remind us of our young selves, Lopez said. .
Think of holidays like Halloween and the childlike joy it brings, with its costumes and bright orange-coated chocolate. Or even specials like “It’s the big pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. These are things that bring a lot of takes us back to an older and simpler time.
Those layers of positive memories and nostalgia, coupled with anticipating what’s to come, all contribute to the excitement many feel about fall, Lopez said.
“It’s that change of season; there’s a lot to look forward to. We had the same experiences when we were young,” he said. “At other times of the year, there isn’t that effect with that nostalgia or that anticipation.”
The character of Tom Hanks in the 1998 movie “You’ve Got Mail” sums it up perfectly: “Don’t you love New York in the fall?” he asks. “It makes me want to buy school supplies.”
Autumn can offer comfort in tumultuous times
But when you think of fall, it’s not just nostalgia involved. comfortable aspect too, visions of s’mores and walks in cozy hay. Even in the beloved pumpkin spice candy, it’s not the pumpkin flavor that most people love, it’s the comforting spices of nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger.
Human beings naturally want certainty and order, Lopez said. Recent events, amplified by social media and near instant access to news, have denied this.
“It’s just a lot to deal with,” he said. “All of these things were true before, but we didn’t have these kinds of events on this scale to force us to think about it.”
That could make this fall a bit more difficult, Lopez said.
“We want that feeling of security and comfort, but… in previous years, before Covid, we would have an active spring and an active summer, and then we would like to come home and make ourselves comfortable,” he said. . “But the house is a strange place now, because we’ve spent so much time here.”
This means that the associations we have with home, security, coziness, comfort – maybe even fall – could change.
That’s not to say fall won’t be as pleasant as it once was, or that those first sips of pumpkin-sweet coffee won’t reach. It just means that many Americans are different now than they were before March 2020. It doesn’t matter if fall is different as well.
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