Ember Months are a Thing

September 7, 2018

 

When Bessie Black stood in her living room and told me she put her Christmas tree up in the Ember Months, I thought it was something she made up. I thought it was cute and probably a good idea. So recently I did a search. The Ember Months are a thing not original to Bessie.

 

An essay in the Pointer, with no author noted the heralding of the Ember Months. I've read it twice, but there are no references, and I'm not sure it says anything notable about the four months at the end of the year, the last of the fiscal quarter, the countdown to the Christian holiday season. Yahoo Answers says it means nothing. Ember is the glowing residue of a fire - maybe that's where the names of the months came from - the end of the year? They are mentioned in scripture: "These ember months shall not swallow me."

 

In Nigeria, according to Ben Okezie, the coinage of the word Ember Months refers to the time of year where evil festers and chaos is more likely. Most of the references to the Ember Months were in essays from Nigeria, citing more accidents and calamities occurring in the last four months of the year.

 

Bessie was African American. It's possible that someone in her extended family passed down stories of the Ember Months or used the term and she remembered it. She also knew old slave songs and would sing them with no provocation. She would sit quietly, listening and then suddenly begin singing the words. She said they were slave songs and the words sounded as if they were, but I'd never heard them before and haven't heard them since.

 

Regardless of where the Ember Months originated, for Bessie, it was an opportunity to prepare the house for the holidays and begin celebrating a Christian tradition. She didn't care that Halloween was still two months away, or that neighbors wouldn't start decorating for the holidays for another three months. She gave me the impression that being different was part of what she liked about it. 

 

Returning to school was also part of the beginning of the Ember Months and for Bessie's daughters and granddaughter, going back to school was torture. They didn't fit. They had Huntington's Chorea, a genetic disease that would eventually be their cause of death. They moved through every day with exaggerated jerks and spasms causing them to be unable to sleep. At the end of their lives they would have several choking episodes each day. For Bessie, the Ember Months were an opportunity to prolong the happy season for her family and build the anticipation. It was a time she could give and not worry about how short their lives would be.

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