These Unorthodox Fall Equinox Traditions Will Get You in the Spirit of Fall
The autumnal equinox marks the switch from light to dark, when the days start to become shorter than the night. Although school has already started and most of us have already put our white pants away after Labor Day, the true start of autumn lands on or around September 22nd in the northern hemisphere.
Known to many as Mabon (pronounced May-Bun), the autumn equinox is not widely celebrated in the U.S., as it marks the melancholic end of warm weather. However, many cultures around the world have traditional celebrations to mark the advent of shorter days and colder weather. If you’re looking for an unorthodox way of celebrating Mabon, check out these 8 fall equinox traditions that you’ve probably never heard of.
1) Celebrate Michaelmas and Goose Day
Michaelmas, or the Feast of Saint Michael, is widely celebrated by Catholics and residents of the UK. The day was first declared a holiday by Pope Gelasius in 487 CE. In the UK, many people celebrate Michaelmas by feasting on goose on September 29th. In the middle ages, residents owed rent to the landlords four times a year, and Michaelmas was one of those days. According to the Centre Daily newspaper, residents would gift their landlord a goose in order to ensure that they could renew the lease.
While the feast is not widely celebrated in the US, there is one part in Pennsylvania that keeps the tradition alive. Restaurants in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania serve goose all day; there are also goose calling contests and a 5k Goose Run to celebrate the ancient holiday.
2) Partake in Harvest Celebrations by Native Americans
Native Americans around the US celebrate the autumnal equinox differently, depending on their tribe’s traditions. In Sedona, Arizona, Native Americans and other communities celebrate the Autumnal Equinox with the fall harvest. Native tribes in Arizona, including the Hopi and Navajo Indians, celebrate the equinox with autumn vision quests.
Full moon ceremonies are held to honor the switch from lightness to darkness. At the end of the ceremony, which can last days, people who participate feast on blue corn pancakes.
3) Check Out the Chinese Mooncake Festival
One ancient legend about the moon is the basis for the Chinese celebration of the fall equinox. During the Zhou Dynasty, over 3,000 years ago, people worshipped the harvest moon in Autumn in the hopes that it would bring a plentiful harvest in the year to come. Mooncakes were eaten during the festivities that occurred during the harvest moon ceremonies.
The Chinese mid-autumn festival in New York City is one of the biggest celebrations of Chinese culture in the U.S. Many Chinese cultural centers in New York, including the China Institute, work together to put on a free event to celebrate the autumn equinox. Mooncakes are served along with other Chinese snacks, and kids can participate in traditional Chinese games and art projects.
4) Enjoy Pomegranates!
In Ancient Greece, the fall equinox is associated with Persephone, the daughter of Zeus, and her return to the underworld to be with her husband Hades for the darker half of the year. According to Greeka.com, pomegranates were known as the fruit of the underworld, and Persephone would eat the seeds when she was there.
While there aren’t many specific festivals in the US that celebrate the Greek tradition of the fall equinox, you can celebrate on your own by cutting open a ripe pomegranate or enjoying some delicious pomegranate juice on September 22nd.
5) Honor Your Ancestors
It’s common practice for people of Japanese descent to use the fall equinox to honor their ancestors and passed relatives. Many Japanese people participate by sweeping or decorating their ancestors’ graves. You can participate in this tradition anywhere by bringing fall flowers or candles to the graves of your loved ones.
In San Francisco, you can partake in the Japanese tradition of honoring your ancestors by attending the fall equinox Ceremony at the San Francisco Zen Center on September 22nd.
6) Party Like a Druid
The festival of the autumn equinox for Druidry is called Alban Elfed, which according to Druidry.com, means “the light of the water.” Alban Elfed celebrates the balance of day and night before the balance swings, and night overtakes day.
In Europe, Neo-Druids gather at Stonehenge to celebrate a bountiful harvest and to welcome in the dark half of the year. You can celebrate at home by using ingredients harvested from your garden to cook a feast for you and your loved ones.
7) Make the Pilgrimage to Ancient Observatory in Chaco Canyon
The Chaco Canyon Sun Dagger is a historic site where Anasazi sky watchers used large slabs of stone and a system of carved spirals to show how the sun changed location in the sky. According to Smithsonian Magazine, during the equinoxes, you can watch how light passes through the spiral to create complex rock art.
8) Bring It Back Down to Earth
Throughout history and all over the world, people have celebrated the fall equinox by honoring the changes in nature. This fall equinox, you can do the same by stepping outside to admire the changing leaves, going apple or pumpkin picking, or making your way to a local farmers market to stock up on the bounty of this year’s harvest.