While many folks are happy to recognize September 1st as the beginning of autumn, others hold fast to the official first day of fall being September 23rd, the Autumn Equinox. Either way, the Autumn Equinox is a day that has been recognized and celebrated throughout history. Today, I’d like to dig into that a bit more by sharing some Autumn Equinox practices (both modern and ancient) as well as some fun Autumn Equinox celebration ideas and rituals with you.
What is the Autumn Equinox?
In the Southern Hemisphere, the Autumn Equinox marks the sun’s passing over the celestial equator. It’s roughly around September 23rd, and it marks the time when day and night, once more, reach the same length.
It’s even in the name, see? “(A)equi” means equal, and “nox” is night. Equal night.
On our modern calendars, this is the day when fall officially begins. It’s also around this time of the year that we begin to really notice the weather cooling and the leaves beginning to turn all those lovely fall shades. It’s also when all the pumpkin spice madness begins!
Celebrated since ancient times, the Autumn Equinox is customarily associated with the fall harvest. To this day, people take this opportunity to give thanks for a plentiful harvest or pray for good crops in the coming years.
You’ll see some people refer to the Equinox and Mabon (the pagan name for this time of the year) interchangeably, but that’s not exactly right. The Equinox is observed on a specific date, dictated by the sun’s movement, whereas Mabon is a long-established Equinox festival that typically runs from around September 21st through to September 29th. During this time, it’s customary to reflect and give thanks (for crops, good health, luck in love, or other blessings).
In most pagan art, Mabon is represented by a double spiral symbol. This is meant to represent both the intake and exhalation of breath. It speaks of a celestial point of perfect balance and is why the Autumn Equinox is a good opportunity to reflect on the past year and consider how your past shapes your future.
Mabon festivities culminate on September 29th, on Michaelmas, which the Catholic Church observes to represent St. Michael’s day. This day is seen as the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the new cycle — one of rest and reward after a year of hard work.
Autumn Equinox Celebration Ideas and Rituals
While each culture and religion celebrates the Autumn Equinox a little differently, so does each family. For instance, in Ireland, it’s considered good luck to eat goose on Michaelmas, for a good remainder of the year. People also roast the goose’s bones after eating, and it’s said that if they’re brown, the winter will be mild, but if they stay white, it will be harsh.
Of course, while everyone will celebrate this day a little differently, here are some common fun Autumn Equinox celebration ideas and rituals for livening up your Mabon week this year.
1. Decorate for Fall
The Autumn Equinox marks a new phase in the cycle of the year, so, too, it should mark a new beginning in your personal life, which is why many people decorate their homes for fall at this time.
This might mean crafting some neat floral arrangements using seasonal flowers (like sunflowers, goldenrod, asters, or mums). Adding these beautiful flowers around your home will make fall feel more real and add a spot of color to your surroundings. If you’re particularly crafty, you might even pick some gorgeous autumn leaves to preserve with beeswax and add to a fall wreath to showcase on your front door.
2. Plant Autumn Bulbs
In some cultures, it’s believed to be good luck to start planting around the Autumn Equinox. In Victorian tradition, it’s said that trees (and plants, in general) planted on Michaelmas will grow strong and well.
The Equinox is also a good time to indulge your green thumb and plant autumn bulbs, such as cyclamen, fragrant trumpets, and autumn crocuses. This is because the earth hasn’t grown too cold and hardened as it will in winter, making it a perfect time for plants to take root in the soil.
3. Make a Cornucopia
The idea for the cornucopia, also known as the horn of plenty, originated in Greek mythology. It’s said that as a baby, Zeus, the god of all gods, was raised by nymphs and fed on the milk of a sacred nanny goat, Amalthea. When the nanny goat died, Zeus placed her in the sky, among the constellations. As thanks, he also gave one of Amalthea’s horns to the nymphs and bewitched it so that it would never run out of good things.
Creating your own fall cornucopia is a beautiful way to celebrate the Autumn Equinox. You can look for a corn-shaped piece, or in a pinch, use a traditionally woven basket, and fill it with vegetables, fruit, nuts, herbs, and flowers. As you do this, take a moment to give thanks, either aloud or mentally, for something you’re particularly grateful for in your life.
4. Cook with Apples
It wouldn’t really be fall without some tasty apple treats, now would it? What’s great about apples is that they’re incredibly versatile and complement a variety of dishes. From the traditional apple pie to fancier recipes like apple strudel, or even apple torte, there’s no shortage of tasty apple desserts.
If you want to celebrate the Autumn Equinox but don’t wish to indulge your sweet tooth, you can also try a savory chicken apple pasta recipe instead.
5. Write a Gratitude List
And of course, since Michaelmas is, after all, an occasion to give thanks for the harvest season and all the blessings that have come your way, it’s a good idea to write those blessings down — not because you’d forget otherwise, but because writing it down allows you to better acknowledge the things you’re grateful for.
Just like in the olden days, people would give thanks for a plentiful harvest, take a moment to think about the good things happening around you this year. Regardless of religious orientation, you can’t go wrong in sending a small message of gratitude out into the world.
Bottom Line: Here’s to a Good Autumn (and Winter!)
As in the olden days, the Autumn Equinox can continue to serve as a good opportunity to acknowledge the blessings of the year, reflect on lessons learned, and set intentions for the future, specifically for the coming winter. Basically, the Autumn Equinox should be taken as a chance to start slowing down from the fast pace of summer.
Often, we go through life mechanically, without stopping to acknowledge or truly paying attention to all that’s going on in our lives and how we’re feeling. Being mindful of what the Autumn Equinox and Mabon symbolize is the perfect reminder for us to stop and live intentionally in the moment.
Happy Autumn Equinox, friends!
Love and light,