• Marilyn Gardner Woods

Do you know of the Ember Months?

Updated: Oct 5


Littlefield Lake, Michigan September pre-pandemic 2019

“…the days grow short when you reach September”

September ushers in the Ember Months.


I don’t remember when I first heard the phrase, a lyrical way of referring to the last four months of the year. In conversation, I’ve asked several friends; no one seems to be familiar with Ember Months, but it conjures a bit of romance and magic for me.


The Ember Months collectively describes the final four months of the year—September, October, November, and December.

I know, there’s no “em” in October, but it’s included, nonetheless.


Also, somewhat confusing—the Ember Months are the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth months of the year, however, the root words are “septem” which means seven, “octo” which means eight, “novem” meaning nine, and decem, ten.


Remember, those ancients Romans only had ten months in their calendar year—no January or February. That changed to twelve somewhere back in BCE…


The Ember Months are upon us. It’s difficult to imagine the next four months, the last months of 2021, as being more tragic or frightening or unsettling than what we’ve experienced in the past eighteen plus months due the Covid-19 global pandemic and the growing Delta variant threat.


Could this year’s Ember Months have pleasant things in store?


Instead of the pre-pandemic frenzy of the season with all the heightened or intense activity, is this the time to spend tender moments with friends? To create. To dream. To just be? The Ember Months of our pasts have been the busiest, often most frantic times of the year.


What do they have in store for us in 2021?


Again, like last year, we face this year’s Ember Months with uncertainty.

But there is also wonderful certainly about September, October, November, and December.


The Ember Months will bring full moons.

September 20 - the Harvest Moon

October 19th, the Hunter’s Moon

November 19th – the Beaver Moon

and on December 18th, the Cold Moon

when nights are at their longest and darkest.


The Ember Months will bring the Autumn Equinox on the 22nd of September when the sun will be exactly above Earth’s equator, moving from north to south. And the Winter Solstice, December 21, will mark the longest nights and the shortest days as the sun reaches its southernmost point in the sky.


Those long nights beg for a fire in the fireplace and candles. Chestnuts roasting?

A wreath on the front door. Familiar songs of the seasons.

Pumpkins, pomegranates, a pot of chili, skeletons, mums, and marigolds.

Apple cider. Baked apples. Apple Crisp Macchiato.

Harvests, homecomings, and Fantasy football.

Sweatshirts, sweaters, and cozy throws.

Turkey, (maybe even some Wild Turkey?), cornbread stuffing, and homemade pies.

Family togetherness.

And tradition.

The Ember Months are full of tradition.


I welcome this time of year which brings so much to appreciate and anticipate despite the continued ravages of Covid-19. For me there is a high hope that the Ember Months will be lived with amped up caution, added vaccinations and boosters, committed mask wearing and safe distancing, and unending consideration for all.


I embrace a quieter, calmer, perhaps more reflective and centered existence in these Ember Months. A time of balance and contentment.


The tender Ember Months’ splendor leading us to year’s end.







On another, not so quiet note – for your dance party playlist—the undeniable groove of Earth, Wind & Fire’s classic “September” focuses on carefree “living in the moment” philosophy while remembering good times of the past. In your own living room, mask off, crank it up and I dare you to sit still! Let the Ember Months begin!





I don't remember hearing of the ember months, but I'm glad to be hearing of them now. And And I welcome them as well. Thanks for the insights. From a tiny house in Texas

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Bess's response to the Ember Months piece - easy, wonderful listening to Edith Piaf's "Autumn Leaves..." Click to listen!


And she offers this one, Yves Montand, perfect for slow dancing!


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Did not know that - Ember months, you learn something every day!! Thank you!😊❤️JS in Fort Collins


oh, oh, oh! I have a new favorite! This is so wonderful, Marilyn. Send it to the paper. People should read this piece. It’s full of such tender longing and hope, all at once. It is exquisite! GV

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