Have you noticed the beginnings of a cool nip in the air and a few leaves fluttering to the ground? Next thing you know, there will be pumpkin spice everything (thank the pastry/coffee lords), Elsa and Anna costumes festooning every Party City, and hand-turkeys as far as the eye can see: so it begins, fall is nigh upon us! As we approach this autumnal season, you may be wondering when exactly the fall equinox of 2019 starts.
Labor Day may, more or less, marks the emotional end of summer, where you ritualistically deflate your pool floaties and burn all your tank tops (alright maybe not that last thing), but we actually still have about three weeks of that summery goodness. The September equinox occurs on Monday, September 23, at exactly 12:50 a.m. When the clock strikes this fateful time, I imagine all the trees will simultaneously shed their leaves, pumpkins will rain from the heavens, and school supplies will tumble down the chimney. No? Well, maybe if you wish upon the Great Pumpkin it’ll happen.
So what is the autumnal equinox? It’s when the sun aligns with the central belt that runs along earth, the equator (that big red line that, for some reason, only shows up in maps and disappointingly never in real life). On this auspicious event, daylight and nighttime will be of exactly equal lengths. After this point, nights will get longer and days shorter, as the earth is plunged into fall and then winter.
There’s an old-wife’s tale that claims you can balance an egg perfectly on one end during the autumnal equinox. But before you set your alarm for the middle of the night to try this, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that eggs respond in any way to the position of the sun. It’s true that the sun looks like a giant yolk, but that’s about as far as the egg connection goes.
The fall equinox is also not to be confused with the end of daylight saving time, so you don’t need to worry about setting your clock back an hour until November 3, 2019. But while we may not mark the The September equinox with our clocks, humans throughout history have found interesting ways to mark the date. The Chichen Itza, a giant Mayan pyramid located in Mexico, welcomes the equinox by creating an illusion using shadow and light to make it appear as if a snake is slithering down its steps. This only occurs as a result of the solar alignment during the equinoxes. The light and shadow create the body of the snake, and the head of the snake rests at the foot of the steps, carved in stone.
Additionally, Stonehenge in England and the Intihuatana stone monument in Machu Picchu, Peru were both built with equinoxes and solstices in mind, as explained by The Old Farmer’s Almanac. And the Stonehenge Tours website points out that every year, Pagans, Druids, and other revelers come together at Stonehenge to celebrate the equinox. Personally, my tradition dictates that I eat some pumpkin pie cupcakes and accidentally sleep in an hour because I’ve once again confused it with daylight savings time ending. To each their own!