This year, the autumn equinox fell on September 20th, marking the first day of autumn. It’s a beautiful time of year, when the leaves start to change, we celebrate the harvest, and we start preparing for the colder days to come.
As a family or community, what are some ways we can celebrate and honour this time of year?
A time of balance…
Equinox literally means “equal night.” And during the equinox, most places on Earth will see approximately 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. This time of year can be celebrated as a time of balance. Play with the themes of balancing opposites, especially the symbolic senses of light and darkness in balance. It’s a great time to purge and let go of things you no longer need, restoring balance and peace in the home.
Getting curious about the science of it…
On the autumnal equinox, the sun is at zenith (it appears to be highest in our sky) over the Earth’s equator. The Earth’s axis tilts neither toward nor away from our sun, and the sun’s center is directly over the equator. After the northern hemisphere’s autumnal equinox, the subsolar point—the point on our planet’s surface that’s directly underneath the sun—travels into the southern hemisphere, gradually casting us into shorter and cooler days.
Here are some fun activities to do with your child, to help them understand the meaning of the fall equinox: https://www.kidzworld.com/article/2526-autumn-equinox
Why do leaves change colour?
When days begin to grow shorter, deciduous (green leafy) trees begin to signal to their leaves to stop producing chlorophyll, the green pigment responsible for the leaves’ color and photosynthesis. Because the color change is more dependent on light than temperature, it takes place at basically the same time year after year.
This fall, try making a game of watching the leaves turn in Parkdale. Gather them up for your nature table, or make some beautiful autumn art together. Check out these videos together, and have fun learning more about the mystery of changing leaves:
- Why do leaves change color in the fall? from DNews
- Why do autumn leaves change color? from Scientific American
- Why do leaves change color in the fall? from Super Scienced
Celebrating the harvest…
Traditionally Autumn Equinox was a time of great celebration. The harvests were coming in and food was plentiful. Celebrations focused on gratitude and thanks for the bountiful harvests. In different traditions, the autumnal equinox takes on several names, including Mabon, Harvest Home, and Alban Elfed.
People give thanks for the sunlight and the fruits of the earth, recognize that we must share those fruits as we enter the harsher months, and prepare to turn inward in the winter darkness, to which they pay their respects. To celebrate, you could make a gratitude list, visit a local farm or farmers market, eat a fall harvest meal together, and decorate your home for the season!
Books to read together…
Here are a few great family books to read together for the autumnal equinox.
- Grace Lin’s Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, Deborah Heiligman’s Celebrate Thanksgiving, and many other excellent picture books explore different cultures’ autumn traditions.
- We Gather Together: Celebrating the Harvest Season (Wendy Pfeffer) introduces the science, history, and cultural traditions surrounding the autumnal equinox. This book also includes projects and recipes to try at home.
- Pat Zietlow Miller’s Sophie’s Squash and Dahlov Ipcar’s Hardscrabble Harvest playfully bring our attention to the bountiful fall harvest we get to enjoy.