One of my favorite fall pastimes is firing up the ol' Web browser and reading McSweeney's classic piece, "It's Decorative Gourd Season, Motherf******" (warning: hilariously salty language). Originally published in 2009, it's an ode to fall written in the argot of a foul-mouthed bro who "can’t wait to get my hands on some f****** gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table."
We all know that, broadly speaking, fall is decorative gourd season. Over at Vox, Sarah Kliff has charted the rise of the pumpkin as the King of Gourds. And Wonkblog's own Roberto Ferdman has demonstrated that Americans really will eat pumpkin-flavored anything.
But we know less about the pumpkin's diminutive knobby cousin, the decorative gourd. And it's even less clear when, exactly, Decorative Gourd Season starts. Or ends. Or when we've reached Peak Gourd. We have Punxsutawney Phil to ring in spring, but no Punxsutawney Felicia to inaugurate gourd season.
But what we do have is data!
Google trends data, to be precise. Google searches for "decorative gourds" don't happen enough to generate a reliable dataset. But we can approximate this by looking at searches for plain old "gourds," which have a healthy overall search volume. These results can be sliced down to the weekly level, which will allow us to pinpoint, with some precision, exactly when gourd season starts, peaks and ends.
First, tragically, this chart tells us that overall interest in gourds is waning from its autumn 2004 peak (remember that the y-axis is just a relative index of overall search interest, not any specific tally of queries). It tells us that gourd interest peaks at the end of the year, as expected, with potentially a smaller bump sometime in the spring — gourd planting season!
Still, this chart doesn't give a great sense of when exactly the gourd bump starts and ends. But since the data is weekly, I was able to average the search interest in gourds for each of the 52 weeks of the year over the past 10 years. That gives us an average year of gourd interest measured by the week.
With these measurements we can pinpoint, scientifically, the start and endpoints of Decorative Gourd Season. An average search index of "30" seems like a good cutoff, so we may say that Decorative Gourd Season begins in the 34th week of the calendar year (Aug. 24-30 this year), and ends in the 45th week (Nov. 2-8 this year). That's 11 full weeks of gourdy goodness!
We can further identify the peak of Decorative Gourd Season, which happens in the 41st week of the calendar year (Oct. 12-18 this year).
With these numbers in mind, it seems reasonable to declare the Last Thursday in August as the start of Decorative Gourd Season, and the First Thursday in November as the end of Gourd Season. We may also declare the Third Thursday in October as Decorative Gourd Day, a day for celebrating the humble gourd and remembering its many contributions to American civic life and society.
Think we can get Obama to declare it a national holiday?