The "Fall Equinox" goes by many names, depending on your family’s culture and lifestyle. There’s the Autumnal Equinox, the First Day of Fall, Succoth if you’re Jewish, and if you’re Pagan, it’s Mabon, named for the Welsh God who symbolized the male fertilizing principle in Welsh myths, according to Sabbats: A Witch’s Approach to Living the Old Ways by Edain McCoy. Regardless of what you call it, it’s fun to come up with Fall Equinox traditions to start with your family. I’ll take any excuse to do fun themed activities and enjoy special food and drink, and the Fall Equinox is definitely a good time to partake.
Every year, the Fall Equinox falls on September 22, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac website. This is the official start of fall in the Northern Hemisphere, and “it occurs at the same moment worldwide,” per the Almanac. It’s called an “Equinox” from Latin meaning “equal” and “nox” meaning “night,” and the length of daylight and length of darkness at night are equal on this day.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac website noted, “During the equinox, the Sun crosses what we call the 'celestial equator' — an imaginary extension of Earth’s equator line into space. The equinox occurs precisely when the Sun’s center passes through this line. When the Sun crosses the equator from north to south, this marks the autumnal equinox; when it crosses from south to north, this marks the vernal equinox.”
In addition to the naturally occurring changes happening on this day, the Fall Equinox/Mabon has an intricate past steeped in tradition, celebration, and gratitude.
“Judaism celebrates Succoth near this time, another harvest holiday with pagan roots that is often observed by building a temporary outdoor dwelling decorated with fall vegetables, and in which all meals are eaten for that celebration,” according to Sabbats.
If you’re Pagan, the lore surrounding this special day is to treat it almost like the holiday Thanksgiving, according to learnreligions.com. “For many Pagan and Wiccan traditions, it’s a time of giving thanks for the things we have, whether it’s having abundant crops or other blessings,” the website notes. “It’s a time of plenty, of gratitude, and of sharing our abundance with those less fortunate.”
Additionally, according to Sabbats, in China, the day is known as Chung Ch’iu and marks the end of the rice harvest. “In old Rome, the equinox marked the infamous Festival of Dionysus, the God of Wine,” the book notes. “The old Anglo-Celtic festival of Harvest Home, a respite from the work of harvesting and ca celebration of thanks, probably once fell on Mabon. In remembrance of that time, Mabon is often referred to as the ‘Witches’ Thanksgiving.”
No matter how you celebrate this harvest celebration, first day of fall, or the balance of light and dark, there are a lot of fun activities and traditions you can start with your family.