The Friday Fillip: The Eleventh Month

Here, north of the equator, November is the Thursday of months. (Just as Thursday is the November of days.)

It stands between you and a big holiday stretch, with nothing to offer but accumulating weariness and the irritating jingling telltales of better times to come — but not yet.

Worse, November is dark, and when it’s not dark it’s grey. In fact, thanks to the increasingly contemned daylight saving time, November hosts the darkest morning of the year, a treasure that you might think would belong to the winter solstice. However, just before DST ends, which happened this year on November 2, sunrise on November 1 clocked in at an awful 7:53 a.m. With time returned to its natural state on the following day, we were vouchsafed a crucial hour in the morning, and the encroaching darkness at rising time won’t approach such depths until December 29, when sunrise will be at a mere 7:51 (where it will stay, annoyingly, for a dozen days, until on January 9, it decides to lighten up a little).

Tellingly perhaps, November always starts on the same day of the week as February, November’s little brother. At least, that’s so in what are known as “common years,” which is to say non-leap years. November gets its name wrong, too. (Well, so do September, October, and December, but we forgive them because we’re still drunk with summer and because of warm fall weather, Thanksgiving, and Christmas holidays.) Nine (“nov-“) got bumped up to eleven (shades of Spinal Tap) when Romans added January and February at the front end of the calendar.

And those irritating telltales I mentioned above? Take out your earplugs in any November shop and be assailed by so-called Christmas music, as merchants seek to drive you to a frenzy of consumption with a playlist consisting entirely of four ancient songs:

httpa:// Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, sung by Burl Ives, released on an unsuspecting public fifty years ago
White Christmas sung by Bing Crosby, a sixty year old veteran ditty
Rocking Around the Christmas Tree, sung by Brenda Lee and released nearly sixty years ago
Jingle Bell Rock, sung by Bobby Helms and a year older even than Brenda’s ditty.

I don’t know who it is who has crafted this assault by the Four Dead Bs (Burt, Brenda, Bing and Bobby), but I’d be willing to bet it’s someone who dislikes November almost as much as I do.


  1. On the bright side … we can look forward to December in only three more days.

    I doubt that daylight time is much ‘contemned’, despite one sceptical YouTube video on the topic. Telling people they will lose an hour of sunshine off their long summer evenings, but it’s OK because it’s nice and bright at 5:15 a.m., is not a recipe for popularity.

    There is a stronger argument that daylight time should not go so late in the year. The argument for stretching it into November a few years back, largely so that kids could allegedly go out on Hallowe’en during daylight, is almost surely bogus. The fun of trick-or-treating is being out after dark.

    As to the numerals – I had always understood that they got out of sequence because the Caesars, Julius and Augustus, inserted their months in the middle (and in the good weather, whenever the sun went down over the forum). Janus, looking forward and back as the pivot between the years, seems likely to have been there before the emperors.

  2. Simon, here are a few newer versions of Christmas songs – although perhaps Christmas songs by N Sync is a frying pan to the fire thing:)