Pumpkins, autumn leaves, flickering flames, and golden chrysanthemums: Now is when orange comes into its own. Lanterns and bonfires push back against the deepening darkness.
The color got its name from the fruit tree, native to northern India. The Sanskrit name naranga traveled west with the fruit, reaching English as orange by the late 1300s. Sailors planted orange trees along trade routes to prevent scurvy. It wasn’t until the early 1600s that the fruit’s color, formerly called geoluhread (“yellow red”), began to be called orange as well.
While seasonal bonfires are an ancient tradition, the prevalence of orange in mid-autumn decorations is distinctively American. Irish immigrants in the 1800s, accustomed to carving turnips for lanterns to ward off evil spirits on All Hallows Eve, discovered North American pumpkins worked even better. The brilliant, spooky orange of glowing pumpkin lanterns against the black of lengthening nights set the ubiquitous color scheme of late October.
10/28/2019 07:47:14 am
I love how much I learn from your writing. Beautiful information, beautifully expressed.
10/28/2019 08:03:49 am
Thank you, Molly. I thought of you while writing this - your piece on the overdone themes of October poetry, a couple of which snuck into this post.
Some sources say it came into English via the Moors through Spain; others, that it reached Spain and France from Italian (which got it from Persian). "Limouna" sounds like lemon. Another source says the Arabic is/was "naranj." The fact that I can't read Arabic script makes this even harder to sort out than most word origins!
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I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.