By Brenda Jones E-MDT Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan
Do you celebrate the first day of Fall? Autumnal (Fall) Equinox is the astronomical start of the fall season in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern Hemisphere, occurring on September 22nd or 23rd depending on your time zone. Time And Date AS states, “Due to the differences between the calendar year (365 days), and the time it takes for the earth to travel around the sun (365 ¼ days), the first day of Fall occurs about six hours later each year.” This year, the official start of the Fall season begins on September 22nd. This is the one day that marks equality between day and night (just over 12 hours of daylight and just under 12 hours of night). As explained in This Week’s Amazing Sky, this is due to the earth’s oblique angle or axis and the sun crossing the celestial equator from north to south. From here on out to its end at the Winter Solstice (December 21st), nights are longer and days shorter. Bob Berman, a long-time astronomer for the Old Farmer’s Almanac puts it this way, fall equinox begins when our “sun pauses momentarily, balanced and motionless, before lunging headlong toward the northern winter.”
Many cultures have deeply rooted festivals, celebrations, and feasts centered around the equinox. The idea of a Harvest Festival is nothing new, people around the world have celebrated it for millennia. Rooted in Celtic lore based on the cycles of the sun, Mabon, celebrates the fall or second harvest, and the beginning of winter preparations. According to Time And Date AS, “It is a time to respect the impending dark while giving thanks to the sunlight.” In China and Vietnam, they celebrate the end of the summer harvest with lotus filled moon cakes in a Moon Festival. Homes.com reports some Native American tribes in the southwest celebrate the equinox with vision quests and full moon ceremonies where they feast on blue corn pancakes. Mabon History: The Second Harvest reports in ancient Greece, a festival was held in the fall to celebrate the harvesting of grapes for wine. In the 1700’s the Bavarians celebrated Oktoberfest, which actually begins in the last week of September and is a time of feasting and cheer that is still celebrated today. Traditionally Thanksgiving which now falls in November was originally celebrated on October 3, which makes a lot more sense agriculturally.
Throughout history, many cultures have seen the fall equinox as a time to give thanks. As we plunge headlong toward the darker days of winter, it is the time to reflect on the abundance in your life and hold gratitude in your heart for the life lessons you have both gained and been able to pass on to others. Rhythms of Play points out that early societies understood the importance of “feasting together to celebrate, create community, and give thanks.”
Fall is a time of preparation for the long winter ahead, a time to be grateful for the abundance of the summer and the momentary pause with the coming holidays to be with family and friends. Mother Earth Living has great suggestions for celebrating the arrival of Fall. With the abundance of beauty in Michigan you probably already do some of them. Suggestions include:
Practice gratitude – Practicing gratitude has been shown to boost mood, improve sleep, and even support immune health.
Visit an orchard – Apples, a symbol of wisdom, are one of many foods associated with the autumnal equinox.
Plant something – Now is the time to plant seeds for trees, shrubs, or bulb plants to enjoy their beauty as they awaken in spring.
Admire and preserve nature – Spend time outdoors admiring nature as the weather turns colder. Collect acorns, leaves, and other things found in nature to use as indoor decorations.
Try fall cleaning – We spend much more time indoors during fall and winter. Freshen your indoor space to make sure your home is ready for all your indoor activities. Choose non-toxic cleaning products to further reduce the number of pollutants.
Host a potluck block party – Get together with friends and neighbors. This is a perfect time to build relationships with your neighbors. It’s a perfect opportunity to serve up seasonal dishes featuring squash, apples, and nuts, and sharing your favorite local wine, or a steaming cup of mulled cider.
However you celebrate the coming of Fall, grab your family or some friends, and truly delight in all the wonder and beauty this season brings.
Brenda Jones is an Enhanced Multidisciplinary Team (E-MDT) Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan and has been a member of the Elder Law of Michigan team since December 2019. As an E-MDT Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan, Brenda works to develop an enhanced team of specialists and community members to address the issues of elder abuse/financial exploitation in the rural communities of Chippewa, Luce, and Mackinac counties in the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan.