The autumn equinox is one of two days in the calendar year when day and night hours are almost equal to one another; it is also the first day of autumn (September 23-24) in the Gregorian calendar.
What’s so special about this day? Equinox comes from a Latin term meaning “equal night”. On this day and on the first day of spring, the tilt of the earth’s axis makes the nighttime equal to the daytime. Every location on earth experiences close to 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of nighttime.
The fall equinox has been known by many other names over the centuries. Cultures from around the world call it: Alban Elfed, Cornucopia, Higan or Koreisai, Feast of Avilon, Festival of Dionysus, Harvest Home, Harvest Tide, Mabon, Night of the Hunter, Second Harvest Festival, Wine Harvest, Witch’s Thanksgiving, and, of course, the first day of autumn.
Common themes of fall celebrations found worldwide are balance, harvesting and abundance, remembrance of the dead and life’s fragility and the return of weather that favors slowing down, introspection, conservation, and reflection on the meaning of life.
Whereas the first day of spring is treated as a time of birth and rebirth, the first day of autumn is the time when things begin to shed, and the growth which was young in the springtime has now reached maturity. Animals begin preparing for winter, tree leaves turn colors, and the air takes on a chill.
Most cultures consider this a time for harvesting crops and taking stock of life’s fragility. It is also a time when people begin noticing the waning hours of daylight in anticipation for the winter solstice. In every culture, the autumn equinox signals the return of weather that favors slowing down, introspection, and conservation.
Many cultures celebrate the harvest as a means to defeat the starvation brought on by winter. It is also a time closely associated with the dead. Since this time of year is one of the most temperate, it is also considered a good time for reflection on the meaning of life.
The celebration of the seasons is thought of mostly as an ancient practice, but more people are beginning to honor the equinox and solstice days. Equinox celebrations or harvest parties are popping up everywhere, regardless of religion, belief, or location in the world. The seasons change for everyone, so everyone can celebrate them!