The Autumnal Equinox has always fascinated me. It’s the start of fall, which marks the change in the season, with crisp, cool days. With the first days of fall, we have all the associated aromas and flavors of the season: pumpkin latte, apple cider, pumpkin pie, chai, apple pie, and cranberry. You, too, might have visions of nutty, rich, and savory flavors.
On the witch’s calendar, the day is Mabon, which celebrates the second harvest. With the perfect balance of warm and cool days, it’s seen as a powerful time for expressing gratitude, meditating, and performing rituals. No matter how you celebrate, the Autumnal Equinox is a time that can be enjoyed by all.
What Is The Autumnal Equinox?
The Autumnal Equinox falls halfway between the shortest and the longest days of the year. So, the Earth is positioned in geometrical balance with the sun, and the entire planet receives the same amount of darkness and light. It’s also a perfect time to find the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) in the sky.
The Autumnal Equinox usually falls on September 22nd or 23rd (this year it’s the 22nd). It takes place on September 21st in more rare instances. The themes of the Autumnal Equinox are all around gatherings, harvest, gratitude, and service. It’s a time of communal celebration, with shared remembrance and sacred rituals around ancestral altars.
Harvest festivals and celebrations have centered around the Autumnal Equinox for thousands of years, with tribal gatherings, sharing, and harvest events. It’s sometimes likened to the modern Thanksgiving holiday, as an alternative to pagan rituals and traditions.
Origins Of The Autumnal Equinox
“Equinox” comes from the Latin “aequi” and “nox,” which mean “equal night,” but there is a spiritual component to the arrival of this special day. While it does not fall on the same day every year, ancient cultures marked the day by geometrically measuring the sun’s position with sites like Stonehenge and Newgrange.
Look up tonight and you might see the Harvest Moon! This is the moon that falls closest to the autumn equinox.
Skygaze with a livestream of the sky above Stonehenge ➡️ https://t.co/Y6BbKEWUP8
— Stonehenge (@EH_Stonehenge) September 20, 2021
The Greeks tied the Autumnal Equinox with the return of the goddess Persephone to her husband, Hades, in the underworld. At the same time, we can celebrate the Chinese Harvest Moon Festival, with offerings of wheat and rice to the moon. The Japanese Higan falls on the equinoxes, with the return home to celebrate and pay respects to their ancestral spirits.
In the British Isles, this was the time when they celebrated the Harvest Moon. And, in France, the government even designed a new calendar around the Autumnal Equinox, which Napoleon Bonaparte eventually abolished. The cultural significance of the day has evolved across cultures, but the general themes are consistent.
How Do We Celebrate?
We celebrate the change in season with visits to the pumpkin patch and fall festivals. If you’re curious about where to go and what to do, you can explore the visitor’s bureaus and chambers of commerce in your local area. For a quick at-a-glance round-up of fall festivals, the Today Show offers a list of festivals by state.
The events are an eclectic mix of live music, scrumptious food, lumberjack competitions, outrageous costumes, dancing, interpretive programs, an appreciation of nature’s wonders, activities for kids, art extravaganzas, parades, wine-and-beer tastings, jesting and jousting, classic car shows, pumpkin carvings, quilt shows, and so much more. There’s something for everyone.