Autumnal Equinox

By Jan Norwood

Pine Cone

Fall means different things to people around the country and world. It can be a time to celebrate the harvest, enjoy state fairs, or enjoy a break from the heat of summer. For some it is a time for religious observances. 

What is the Autumnal Equinox? It is the halfway point between our longest and shortest days of the year. The Earth and Sun seem to stand in geometrical balance. It is the moment when the Sun appears straight over the Earth’s equator. The Earth receives almost equal amount of daylight and darkness at the Autumnal Equinox, which can be anytime between September 21 and 24. The Autumnal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere is the first day of Fall. The first day of fall in 2021 is September 22. Since the seasons are opposite in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, the same day is the spring or vernal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere. Below are a few examples of the various celebrations around the world.   

Chichen Itza, Mexico is the site of one of the more famous Autumnal Equinox observations. On the day of both the spring and fall equinoxes, the shadow of an enormous snake appears to creep slowly down the staircase of the pyramid known as El Castillo. Each year thousands of people gather at Chichen Itza to witness the phenomenon. 

Mabon is a neopagan celebration of the equinox held at Stonehenge and Castlerigg in the United Kingdom. Neo-druids and Arthurian friends gather at sunrise to respect the darkness and give thanks to sunlight. 

The Moon or Mid-Autumn festival is celebrated in China and Vietnam. It honors the plenty of the summer harvest. Mooncakes filled with sweet-bean or lotus-seed paste are shared and eaten. Vietnamese children wear masks and brightly lit lanterns are a large part of the festival in both countries. 

In Japan the day is honored with the traditional Buddhist custom called Ohigan. It is believed that the land of the afterlife is due west. During the equinox the sun sets directly west. It is a time to honor the dead by visiting and cleaning the graves of ancestors and leaving flowers at the graves. Family members and friends meet and spend time together at Ohigan.  

Michaelmas is a Christian festival linked to the autumnal equinox. It is celebrated on September 29 as a day to honor the defeat of Lucifer by the Archangel Michael in a war in heaven. Michaelmas marks the onset of darker nights and colder days. Families feed a upon a fattened goose to protect them against financial issues in the next year. A saying from the British Isles proclaimed, “Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day, Want not for money all the year.” (Johnson, 2021) 

Whatever your beliefs and traditions may be, we hope you enjoy the coming of fall and the associated celebrations.  

Resources 

Blog. (2021, 8 29). Retrieved from The Coolest Fall Equinox Traditions From Around the World: www.blog.grubmarket.com 

Brady, H. (2021, 8 29). National Geographic. Retrieved from See How the Fall Equinox is Celbrated Around the World: www. nationalgeographic.com 

Johnson, B. (2021, 8 29). Michaelmas. Retrieved from Historic UK: www.historic-uk.com