Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Autumnal Equinox Around the World

As Summer draws to a close with tomorrow's of the Autumnal Equinox on September 23rd.  Our days are growing shorter, while our nights grow longer. It is one of my two favorite times of the year, the other being Spring.   During the equinox the periods of daylight and darkness are equal nearly all over the world; hence, it is a time of celebration around the world. 

In China, the day marks the end of the rice harvest.  The holiday is centered on recognizing the importance of the harvest. The Chinese also celebrate the birthday of the Moon at this time.  Special holiday birthday cakes, called Mooncakes,  are baked with flour from harvested rice, and traditionally, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the  moon, which is actually quite bright at this time of year.  It was also said that, on this night, flowers will fall from the sky, and those who saw them were to be blessed with great abundance throughout the coming year.

In Japan, both the vernal and autumnal equinoxes are national holidays—days to visit family graves and hold reunions. The Spring and Autumn equinoxes are known as higan and are seen as a time to meditate on the impermanence of our lives which is mirrored in the changing seasons.  Spirits are said to return at higan, and relatives and friends send gifts of melons and other foods to be offered on the altar to friends or family members who have passed on.  Higan lasts for seven days - beginning three days prior to the equinox and ending three days after it.  This is a time for families to visit the ancestor's tombstone and clean the grave, offer flowers, and pray.

In Korea, there is a three-day festival known as Chuseok, a time most comparable to Thanksgiving in the United States, and in Africa, the equinoxes are observed in subtle ceremony and rites.
  The Yoruba people of Nigeria had a celebration in October to celebrate the yam harvest. Dances were held to honor the ancestors, and to bid farewell to those who might have died in the past year.  In India, people of Kerala hold a harvest festival called Onam.  At this time, food is delivered to the poor and homes are decorated with flowers.

Norse  pagans celebrate this time as Winter Finding, a time period that runs from the Sabbat until October 15th, Winter’s Night, and in Celtic countries it was known as  Mabon and Alban Elfed. In rural England, the Harvest Home was celebrated on the last day of bringing in the harvest.  Offerings of ciders, wines, herbs and fertilizer are appropriate at this time. A harvest supper was a dinner of thanksgiving and celebration.

Native American people at the time of the autumn equinox began their preparation for winter.   Their harvest festivals were very spiritual. The Chumash tribe in California gathers together to focus on the importance of togetherness during confinement in winter, death and rebirth. In Native American tradition, the Earth Mother and the ancestors are honored this time of harvest with feasting, bonfires, as well as drumming, dancing, story-telling and a variety of traditions from different tribes.  The Iroquois people celebrated the season as a Corn Dance, usually held in October. It was their way of giving thanks for the ripening of the grain. 

Jewish people celebrate Sukkot, a festival of thanksgiving that lasts for nine days.  On this occasion, the Jewish family builds a booth which is called a Sukka, which they decorate with leaves, branches, fruits, or vegetables from the new harvest.  
This is the time of the harvest,  a time to appreciate and give thanks to the Goddess for her bounty as well as  to share in the joys of the harvest with others.  It is also a time to appreciate the connection we have will all who share our lives.  This is a day of balance, and as the world begins to tilt toward the time of darkness, we, too,  begin to slow down and reflect on the harvests in our own lives.  As age creeps up on me, I begin to appreciate this time of year so much more, for this is not only the time to honor the turning of the wheel, but also to honor and reflect on the fruits  of a lifetime. 


  1. Stop the CLOCK! ;0)
    Age is not only creeping up on's about to pass me!
    Congress need to pass a LONGER DAY.
    LOL at that JOKE.

  2. I love this time of much to reflect upon, to be grateful for, to store up for winter's resting and gathering with family during the long nights...makes me smile Mary!

    Wonderful of you to post the different traditions...we can all learn from these and perhaps begin a new one to embrace?

    Wishing for you a Very Happy Autumnal Equinox!

  3. Dear Mary, thank you for this. Especially for the part which tells how the equinoxes are celebrated in Japan.

    I printed it out and will take it with me, when I go over to Daughter's house, shortly. I have to pick up a library book there, to return it.

    And while there, I'll see my Japanese Granddaughter-for-10-months. :-) I'll surprise her by knowing that it is called Higan, in her country! :-)

    Thank you!!!

  4. a blessed Equinox to you dear Mary.. where our wheel is at the Spring Equinox xo