Fall Has Arrived!
September 22nd, The Fall Equinox, marking the first day of fall.🍁
For farmers in the North East region of the United States, this is one of the most significant days of the year as Fall Equinox is a time of harvest and bounty. Celebration of the Fall Equinox is a time-honored tradition as the survival of early colonizers was predicated on crop production, storing root vegetables and preserves to endure cold winters.
The Fall Equinox,
marking the first day of autumn for parts of the United States and other Western cultures. For farmers in the North East region of the US, this is one of the most significant days of the year as Fall Equinox is a time of harvest and bounty. The survival of early colonizers was predicated on crop production, storing root vegetables and preserves to endure cold winters. With the arrival of autumn came the sweet allure of rest and relaxation as fields were fallow and animals were removed from pasture, a break from the long agrarian days of the summer. If fortune allowed, feasts were held in honor of a generous crop. This was not only an act of jubilance but survival, allowing settlers to increase their fat stores before an unforgiving winter. Fall Equinox often coincides with a full moon in September, often referred to in North America as the Harvest Moon, as it is so luminous farmers can work through the night collecting the last of their bounty. Many parts of the world use this time to solemnize the moon.
The ancient Celtic celebrated Samhain indicating the “darker half” of the catholic calendar. The day begins at sunset on October 31st and is celebrated until the sun descends on the night of November 1st. While it is difficult to determine when or why Samhain began, historians have identified Neolithic Passage tombs that reveal the festival to be of Celtic pagan origins. Early Irish literature suggests that these gatherings featured great feasts where ancient burial grounds were opened to be observed as portals to the ‘Otherworld’, the Gaelic dimension of gods and deities. This is what many anthropologists refer to as a liminal ceremony or a time when the boundaries between dimensions were thinned and spirits or faeries may enter our world- in Gaelic, it is also referred to as Aos si. To protect attendees, bonfires were lit and rituals were performed as a means of cleansing any souls that may enter from the realm of the ‘Otherworld’. Further precautions were taken, offering food and drink to their ghostly guests in the hopes that they were nourishing the souls of dead kin revisiting their homes and seeking hospitality. Many villagers took advantage of this ritual, hiding from the spirits under elaborate costumes and going door-to-door in what is called mumming or guising. The people would recite verses in exchange for food, often receiving nuts and fruits from the orchard harvest. Many scholars believe this phenomenon may have been the impetus for what we know today as trick-or-treating.
A Time for Gratitude and Celebration
In China, autumn is ushered in with the Moon Festival, a tradition that dates back to over 3,000 years ago. Similar to the feasts held in North America, China celebrates the abundance of the summer’s harvest, most importantly, rice and wheat. However, unlike Western celebrations, the Moon Festival is not marked by a Gregorian calendar date, instead, it is determined by the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar. This year, 2022, the festival was held from September 10th - 12th.
During the Moon Festival (also known as Mid-Autumn Festival) paper lanterns of various colors, shapes, and sizes are carried by attendees, line the streets, and decorate buildings. The beacons illuminate people’s paths to prosperity, fertility, and good fortune. They fuel their festivities with a rich, dense pastry called mooncakes. This treat can be sweet or savory as it is typically filled with sweet beans, egg yolk, meat, or lotus seed paste. The top of the mooncake is pressed with culturally significant imagery, like a moon palace or the Chinese symbol of reunion, and the circular shape of the mooncake is a reference to congregation and completeness. They are often presented to family members as a symbolic gesture of profound togetherness. In fact, the Moon Festival itself symbolizes a time of union when families gather to celebrate the moon at its fullest and brightest, burning incense in reverence to deities and, in southern China, performing dragon and lion dances.
A Season of Abundance
Across all cultures, fall is a season of gratitude for the abundance we receive from the land and each other which is represented by the crops, celebrations, moon worship, expanding waistlines, and togetherness we experience during the seasonal transition. Before we see this date on the calendar, our bodies and the world around us reflect the changing seasons. We hope you take the time to honor the transitions you are experiencing- maybe its the cacophony of fall leaves crunching under your feet, crisp air kissing your cheeks and nose, the migration of your neighborhood birds and butterflies, the itchiness of allergies, or Halloween candy on display.