When does fall officially start? The fall equinox occurs on Sept. 22, a day in which there are equal amounts daylight and darkness. It is one of the two days of the year, including the spring equinox, where the earth is tilted neither toward nor away from the sun, causing 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of darkness.
This balance is celebrated throughout the world with different traditions. Pagan mythology calls the equinox the Mabon or Second Harvest and thinks of it as a time to give thanks for the harvest. It is also a time to get ready for the Samhain, a bigger pagan festival in the winter, by building an altar and offering apples to goddesses. Pagan mythology believes the fall equinox is a day of balance and reflection.
The Japanese refer to the equinox as Ohigan and believe it is symbolic of the transitions of life. They often use the day to visit their ancestors’ grave sites and to meditate.
On Sept. 15, China celebrated its equinox festival called the Moon Festival. The day was celebrated with moon cakes, lanterns and moon gazing. This year, the festival included a giant moon-like balloon that accidentally snapped off its strings and bounced around the city.
In the west, the autumnal equinox usually marks the beginning of fall and its activities. Americans usually celebrate the beginning of fall and its plentiful harvest throughout the season with vegetable harvesting and pumpkin picking. However, Moonshine ‘n’ Mooncakes is a 21-and-over event that will celebrate the equinox with a combination of Chinese mooncakes and moonshine (said to be produced from the plentiful harvest of barely in Scotland) on Sept. 22 at the Oriental Garden on 14 Elizabeth St. in Manhattan from 6 to 9 p.m.
The autumnal equinox marks the beginning of the season with celebrations around the world.