As summer draws to a close, a blaze of golden glory will return as nature’s last hurrah before the bleak winter months return. Leaves will start to transform into shades of gold and crimson, birds will begin migrating south for the winter, fruits will be ripe for foraging and conkers and acorns will once again litter our paths.
Although warm weather may give the impression of an extended summer, Friday 23rd September will mark the first astronomical day of autumn this year with the autumnal equinox marking the return of a new season.
In the northern hemisphere the autumnal equinox occurs every year between Sept 21st and 24th. In a non-leap year, the moment of the autumnal equinox is about 5 hours 49 minutes after that moment the previous year. In a leap year it is about 18 hours 11 minutes before that moment in the previous year – this is what causes the constant shift of the autumnal equinox back and forth between these dates.
The Harvest Moon is a full moon that occurs nearest to the autumnal equinox, and it is said the light of the Harvest Moon enabled farmers to work late into the night, helping them to bring in all of the crops from their fields.
As with other season changes, there are plenty of customs that accompany the arrival of the autumn equinox which include Pagan rituals of giving thanks for a plentiful harvest and acknowledging the need to share the Earth’s fruits in the coming winter months.
There is also the Japanese tradition of Higan which is celebrated during the autumn equinox. It lasts for seven days, beginning three days prior to the equinox and ending three days afterwards. It is a time to both remember deceased relatives, as well as mark the passing of the seasons.
While we say goodbye to beach days and the craze of summer, it is a time to embrace a change of pace with cozy blankets, open fires, pumpkin picking and the return of the crisp autumn wind.