It’s Finally, Maybe, Almost Fall

How can we know when Boston's most iconic season is actually underway?

Sam Adams image by Bruce Martin on Flickr

Sam Adams image by Bruce Martin on Flickr

Hooray! It’s finally (almost, maybe, kind of) Fall! Throw on some flannel and roll your eyes at a slow walking BU student because this is Boston’s season to shine.

Though… as this weekend’s beach weather showed, the boundary between seasons can get blurry. This weekend was one when your Instagram feed might have suffered some cognitive dissonance, splitting its time between annoying pictures of Sam Adams Octoberfest bottles and annoying pictures of people’s feet in the sand.

It begs the question: in an age when the Pumpkin Spice Latte debuts a week before Labor Day, what cultural benchmarks are we supposed to use? How do we know it’s safe to pack up our bathing suits, light up those apple cinnamon scented candles, and embrace our Compulsive Fall Disorder?

Formally, of course, there is the Fall Equinox. But let’s not be so reductive. September 21 came and went, and still this weekend felt decidedly summer-like. So there must be other, surer cultural signs. If someone offers you a Sam Adams Winter Lager or a Christmas-themed Starbucks drink, for instance, you can be reasonably sure that it’s early fall.

Or look at the Red Sox. This morning, the team Instagrammed the message “We’ll be back.” Sure, we love to bring the Red Sox with us into October, but historically speaking, an apologetic, Terminator-like message from the team that promises better days ahead is usually a sure sign that fall can’t be far away.

Then there’s the autumn internet bait. This week, McSweeney’s post “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers,” a beloved classic in the genre of seasonal celebrations, has once again made its way to the top of the site’s most popular list. Maybe you noticed, and thought you smelled the crisp scent of dead leaves tickle at your nose. Or maybe someone e-mailed you another classic of the genre: The Onion’s “Mr. Autumn Man Walking Down Street With Cup Of Coffee, Wearing Sweater Over Plaid Collared Shirt.” Maybe they included the subject line “LOL, you’re a parody” in their message to you. And maybe you replied, “Mom, please stop emailing me while I’m at work.” Another sure sign of autumn’s nearness.

Or, of course, you could be boring and just go by the weather. Despite the burst of warmth this weekend, reports suggest this week will feel far more October-like in Boston. So embrace it. Christmas TV ads can’t be far away.