Christian Girl Autumn was once a joke and has now become a seasonal inspiration of coziness

Slowly but surely, summer is bidding its farewell. Late night sunsets are a rare occurrence as the daylight hours wane. The temperature outside is beginning to drop. Those pesky mosquitoes are retreating underground, far away from civilization. And the leaves outside are trading their signature bright green hues for red, orange and yellow ones. 

The fall season is officially upon us and like clockwork, people are sipping on pumpkin spice lattes and trading their shorts and tees for jeans and knitwear (or, at least, long sleeves). Fall decorating is now a thing as people eagerly adorn their homes with seasonal decor, like harvest lights and even autumnal-themed Le Creuset cookware. Fall-scented candles — from spiced pumpkin to witches’ brew — are also enjoying their moment under the spotlight. 

Where hot girl summer is about embracing one’s individuality, Christian girl autumn is about embracing conformity.

For many, fall is more than just another season. It’s an entire personality. It’s a state of being. And it’s a way of life. This ongoing trend of obsessing over everything fall has to offer was first made popular by a viral photo of two brunettes with matching hairdos, makeup and suede booties. Dubbed “Christian girl autumn,” the online meme quickly yet unexpectedly entered the cultural sphere. Today, the meme is an inspiration to many and remains a topic of discussion when people yearn for the sheer bliss that comes with fall. But that wasn’t always the case. 

Christian girl autumn first hit the internet shortly after “Hot Girl Summer,” the phenomenon popularized by rapper Megan Thee Stallion. As its name suggests, hot girl summer is reserved solely for the warm months, typically between May and July.

“It’s just basically about women — and men — just being unapologetically them, just having a good-a** time, hyping up your friends, doing you, not giving a damn about what nobody got to say about it. You definitely have to be a person that can be the life of the party, and, y’know, just a bad b**ch,” Megan told The Root. Hot girl summer entails living and enjoying your life to its fullest.

Christian girl autumn, however, is the complete opposite. The meme took Twitter by storm on August 9, 2019, when user @lasagnabby tweeted, “Hot Girl Summer is coming to an end, get ready for Christian Girl Autumn??” alongside a picture of influencer Caitlin Covington and her friend Emma Gemma. Upon first glance, it’s hard to distinguish Covington from Gemma because everything about their appearances are the same. Their long, wavy brunette hair is styled the same. Their simple makeup is the same. And their attire of oversized white blouses, skinny blue jeans, suede heeled booties, and leather totes is (you guessed it!) the same.

Where hot girl summer is about embracing one’s individuality, Christian girl autumn is about embracing conformity. And where hot girl summer is about being a “bad b**ch,” Christian girl autumn is about being a “basic b**ch.”

The original Christian girl autumn tweet was retweeted more than 12,000 times. Although the photo itself showcases a wholesome moment shared between two friends, its early internet fame didn’t come from a place of kindness, but rather mockery. People clowned the two women’s looks, using them to make assumptions about their views on politics, race, identity and sexuality. As explained by Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos, folks online “affixed a personality type to [Covington and Gemma]: Republican, anti-gay, casually racist, blatantly racist, and hypocritical Christian among them.”

The women’s ardent love for fall also became a major point of mockery used to further exemplify how white culture is devoid of, well, any culture. White culture includes naming your son Ryker, per this one tweet, and getting overly excited to annoyingly pronounce “huevos rancheros” at brunch, per another. It also includes adoring autumn to the point where it becomes an obnoxious personality trait.

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Perhaps what’s most fascinating about the Christian girl autumn meme is its transformation from a joke to an inspiration. Just days after the meme attained notoriety, Covington took to Twitter to push back on the online taunting. Covington, who is a self-described “Southern Belle,” fully leaned into the attention she garnered from the meme and unapologetically embraced her love for all-things autumn:

“If all of Twitter is gonna make fun of my fall photos, at least pick some good ones!” she wrote alongside four additional fall photos for people to enjoy. “Super proud of these. For the record, I do like pumpkin spice lattes. Cheers!” Covington later replied, “Love is love!” to a tweet asking her for her thoughts on the LGBTQ+ community and clarified that she is not a Republican in another.

Covington’s tweets were well-received, and suddenly, the same people who had poked fun at Covington were now rooting for her. Gay Twitter decided they had to support with utmost passion while others hailed Covington as an icon, a legend and other titles of encouragement.

Many people are living vicariously through Covington’s elaborate fall antics.

The Christian girl autumn meme, which once represented everything wrong with our society, had come to represent almost everything right. The meme is no longer the subject of nasty angling and baseless assumptions. Instead, it’s a symbol of comfort and nostalgia, classic sentiments that are associated with fall. Christian girl autumn is about putting on your favorite cozy outfit and spending time with your closest companion(s). It’s about celebrating pure happiness. It’s about reveling in gleeful fun. And it’s about indulging in the little things in life — which many of us have taken for granted amid a ruthless pandemic. Christian girl autumn reminds us that there’s joy in sipping on a pumpkin spice latte (or your go-to warm beverage of choice), wrapping yourself in a warm scarf or frolicking outdoors in the fall leaves.   

In recent years, Covington has attained a community of fans who eagerly anticipate her annual fall photoshoots. It’s not necessarily stan culture, where overzealous fans place celebrities on a pedestal, but it certainly comes close. Like the parasocial relationships that stans have with their chosen idols, many people are living vicariously through Covington’s elaborate fall antics. There’s something about her foliage-filled backdrops, bright hued pumpkins and autumnal decor that are incredibly enticing. Her escapist content essentially portrays a fantasy that’s both familiar yet unfamiliar all at once. Sure, plenty of people have seen fall leaves or stepped foot in a pumpkin patch or apple orchard. But they’ve never seen the leaves or stepped foot in the patches and orchards that exist in Covington’s social media. That’s the allure of Covington’s content, which takes our simple reality and transforms it into a magical wonderland.

Simply put, it’s Covington’s autumnal world, and we’re all just living in it.

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