The Autumnal Equinox falls this week, on September 22nd at 3:21pm if you want to be precise. For most of us, this holiday conjures up images of football, flannel, gourds of various sizes and colors, and of course Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes. But rarely do we dive into the origins of the celebrations we hold so near and dear to our hearts. I’ve developed this crazy idea that cutting through the commercialized holiday propaganda I’ve been fed for years and focusing on the reason for ALL the seasons will help me embrace what can sometimes be stressful events and in turn make me a more grateful individual every day. So follow along as I attempt to break down the meaning behind the Equinox and what it might mean for me and you today!
When I dove into the history of this day, I didn’t realize the centuries and cultures I was going to cross. So in an attempt to dumb this down for time and relevance sake, I am only going to focus on the origins of the Equinox in America/Northern Hemisphere.
Though the day falls on September 22 this year, it fluctuates between the 21st and 24th because rather than being defined by a day-long event on a calendar, it’s based on the position of the Earth and sun at a particular moment in time. Basically, at 3:21pm on September 22nd, 2021, the sun will cross the equator and at that exact moment the Northern and Southern hemispheres will receive an equal amount of sunshine and the length of day and night will be approximately equal (hence the name “equinox” which comes from the Latin words aequus, meaning ‘equal’ and nox, meaning ‘night.’)
To get down to brass tacks, in our neck of the woods we began observing this day for agricultural reasons. Because the September Equinox coincides with the fall harvest, those who tended to crops knew this event marked daylight hours getting shorter. This date also falls within days of the full moon, which we coined the “Harvest Moon” because the length of the sun setting and moon rising on that day gave farmers one last long day to harvest their crops before frosty nights set in. In Pagan societies, this day is referred to as “Mabon,” which means second harvest, and is celebrated with tons of rituals honoring the balance of dark and light and giving thanks for reaping a blessed harvest.
While I might not be running off to worship at Stonehenge and offer a sacrifice to Green Man, God of the Forest anytime soon, I do love the idea behind such rituals and this is exactly what I was seeking to integrate into my own observation of the first day of fall.
As someone whose biggest struggle is maintaining healthy life balance, I love this idea of taking a day to honor perfectly equal harmony between light and dark. Far too often I get caught up and distraught in the pursuit of perfection and happiness, which makes the hard times an even tougher blow to endure. There has to be acknowledgement that it takes both good and bad; without one you cannot have the other. You have to respect the darkness to truly appreciate the light, both within yourself and the outside world.
It’s also always nice to practice gratitude for the blessings we already have. Personally, I think this day would be a great opportunity to examine progress gained over the summer in particular. How far have you come since the vernal equinox in March? What did you achieve with the extra hours of daylight you were given? I think this would be a cool way to set goals, knowing there is a sort of deadline on the horizon instead of wasting away those lazy, hot days in the sun with seemingly no end in sight. Putting a date on a goal is always a good idea so it doesn’t just fall to the wayside or put off “til tomorrow.”
Fall is such a magical time of year, not just for me but for everyone. At the expense of sounding like every generic shiplap sign at Hobby Lobby, there truly is peace to be found in seeing how wonderful it can be to let dying things go. If you’re like me and you’re holding on to heavy things, this holiday might be the time to finally light those dead leaves aflame and shake them from your limbs. Knowing that the nights are getting longer may also be a good motivator for reprioritizing and focusing more on things at home. I’m always most productive and frugal when I keep my butt indoors instead of distracting myself in public 5 nights a week; with long cold nights ahead, it’s the perfect opportunity to focus on the things that bring true lasting joy and not fleeting dopamine hits.
I hope this article was able to both inform and inspire you all as much as it has for me. Taking the time to investigate the origins of our popular holidays and celebrations is always eye-opening; I truly love the simplicity of seeing the stories behind the Hallmark cards and candy company influence. Happy Mabon to you all!