September is a month of new beginnings in a plethora of different cultures worldwide. Often a symbol of hope and rebirth, in the world of work and education in the western hemisphere, September is becoming the new January.
All Scottish universities start their academic years in September, and subsequently a rush of activity is seen in the Scottish businesses which benefit from increased student population, from the stationery manufacturers to the bars and clubs which gain back the life they lost after the midsummer slump. Having said that, things are different here in Edinburgh, where the city’s Fringe tourists pepper the streets from the Royal Mile right to the outreaches of Dalmeny and Craigentinny and increase the city’s population by an extra 2.2 million every August. In comparison, it’s then transformed into a ghost town throughout the gloomy five day period between the tourists’ departure and the students’ arrival. However, with four bustling universities (Edinburgh, Napier, Queen Margaret and Heriot-Watt), the historic streets of the capital soon fill up.
September has historically been a month filled with hope and celebration, stemming from its pagan roots with the mid-harvest festival Mabon (which this year falls on September 22nd, for those that way inclined). This was a cause for mass celebration, when pagans gave thanks for the year’s crops and blessings. Mabon originated because of September’s unique light. A perceptive pagan noticed that there was an equal balance between the number of light hours and the number of dark, giving rise to the Autumn equinox. However, it’s not just in the western hemisphere that the month of September is significant. In south-east Asia they have a tradition of the ‘Mooncake Festival’, where September’s harvest moon is celebrated by a national holiday. Spectacular light displays are erected on rivers, and delicacies called mooncakes are provided – a somewhat fluffier, redder version of the British scone made with Lotus seeds and salted blue duck eggs.
The month of September owes its name to the ancient Roman calendar. It was the seventh of ten months, and half the month was dedicated to the Roman Games which, in its day, was a bigger sporting spectacle than the Olympics.
Those born in September are largely under the Zodiac sign of Virgo and the symbol of the bear, which is thought to be associated with qualities such as hard work (stemming from the manual labour of the harvest) and an affinity with nature. Whether this is strictly true or not remains to be seen. However, in reference to hard work and academic achievement, a recent study by the IFS (Institute for Fiscal Studies) has shown that test scores for British children born in the summer months from June to August have an average attainment which is much lower than their September-born peers, and many tend to struggle more in school and ‘fall through the gap’. By the age of seven, they can be found to be more than three times as likely to be regarded as ‘below average’ by their teachers in reading, writing and mathematics. Although the IFS has found that this attainment gap shrinks over time, it has been proven to persist to GCSE year.
September is a month of new beginnings, where a little hard work – from harvests to the academic world – goes a very long way. One thing is certain; as September comes each year it presents itself as a fresh page, and a gateway into the new academic year that stretches long ahead.