WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22: Pick out a pumpkin and sip some warm cider, because fall is officially here! At 11:09 p.m. tonight, EDT, the Autumnal Equinox occurs. Only twice per year does the Earth’s axis tilt neither toward nor away from the sun, creating equal day and night hours.
The effect of seasonal changes on humans and animals is well documented, but the celebrations that humans host on this occasion are just as well known! Religiously, the Autumnal Equinox means Mabon for Wiccans and some Pagans, an approaching festival of love for Zoroastrians, and a sacred day to visit family and loved ones’ graves for Shintos. (Wikipedia has details.) Internationally, the Autumnal Equinox signals a major harvest festival in Korea and a national holiday in Japan. Historically, the Autumnal Equinox has also been held in high esteem by many cultures. The Mayans, in particular, were fascinated by the equinoxes, and they even designed a pyramid—El Castillo at Chichen Itza—to host specific patterns that appeared on these special days. Twice per year, the image of the Mayan serpent god, Kulkukan, can be seen as a lightened outline amid the shadows on the pyramid.
Today, Mabon—a tradition much like Thanksgiving—continues to play a major part in Wiccan (and some Pagan) festivities. It’s a time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the rewards of hard work—whether those rewards include a bountiful harvest, a happy family or a well-balanced work life. (Find out more at Wicca.com.) Fall foods like cider, corn, gourds and wine are popular at feasts, and many celebrate elaborately. It’s also common to unwind and prepare for the end of the year, which is coming soon—at Samhain.