Autumn Equinox

Guest post by Beate Schwirtlich

Autumn Plantings

Bulbs: plant for spring blooms or pot for forcing indoors
Spinach: overwinter for early spring greens
Beets: overwinter for early spring greens
Swiss Chard: overwinter for early spring greens
Arugula: overwinter for early spring greens
Kale: overwinter for early spring greens
Carrots: overwinter in the ground for late fall and early spring harvest
Parsnips: overwinter in the ground for late fall and early spring harvest
Garlic: plant for next year
Radishes: plant for harvest in late fall

The Autumn Equinox

The Feast of the August Moon, Fall Equinox, Second Harvest Festival, Chusok or `Moon Festival’, Festival of Dionysus, Wine Harvest, Cornucopia, Feast of Avalon, Harvest Home, Festival of Greenery

Every agrarian culture I’ve read about, past or present, has a way of celebrating the year’s harvest. Today’s celebrations are the descendents ancient ones. They mostly happen between Autumn Equinox (September 23 this year) and Halloween or Samhain, October 31, some a bit earlier. They often link the cycles of death and life, honouring the dead as well as the harvest. In many cultures, these things are intertwined.

Harvest is over, winter is coming, and people have both the time and the reason to celebrate and relax. It’s a time to enjoy plentiful food while it lasts: winter can be a time of scarcity or at least monotony when it comes to food.

First Nations peoples have held harvest festivals in North American for thousands of years. In the States and Canada holidays like Thanksgiving came to the New World along with the first Europeans. European harvest festivals originated from pagan celebrations like Mabon, the pagan Celtic festival held on the Equinox.

  • Fall fairs, another tradition in North America, began in Europe as trading meets held in the days after harvest.
  • Todays’ celebrations find a place for many crops that are historical symbols of autumn: sheaves of corn and wheat, grapes and wine, gourds, dried leaves, rattles, horns of plenty, seeds and nuts, apple cider, squash, pumpkins.
  • The first jack-o-lanterns were hollowed out turnips with candles inside.
  • According to the Smithsonian Institute, “Most of the credit for the establishment of an annual Thanksgiving holiday may be given to Sarah Josepha Hale. Editor of Ladies Magazine and Godey’s Lady’s Book, she began to agitate for such a day in 1827 by printing articles in the magazines. She also published stories and recipes, and wrote scores of letters to governors, senators and presidents.” On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed the new American holiday of Thanksgiving.
  • In Japan, Autumn Equinox Day is a national holiday marking the change of seasons and paying respects to the dead.
  • German peasants at one time broke the first straws of hay harvested and said “This is food for the dead.”
  • Buddists celebrate equality on the equinox, the time of the year when day and night are of equal length.
  • Moon cakes are the traditional food of harvest and thanksgiving festivals held in Korea.
    The first Thanksgiving service known to be held by Europeans in North America was in Newfoundland on May 27, 1578.
  • In England, the last sheaf of corn harvested represented the `spirit of the field’. It was made into a doll. Corn dolls were drenched with water representing rain or burned to represent the death of the grain spirit. At other times they were kept until the following spring.
  • The Polish Feast of Greenery involves bringing bouquets and foods for blessing by a priest, then using them for medicine or keeping them until the following years harvest.
  • The Roman celebration was dedicated to Pomona, goddess of fruits and growing things.

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