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6 Modern Autumnal Equinox Traditions

Celestial cycles are inevitable constants that humankind can always count on to track the progress of the year. Although the Vernal (spring) Equinox tends to get more attention than the Autumnal (fall) Equinox, both are equally important in tracking the cycles of the Earth.

Historically, the Autumnal Equinox was used as a way to give thanks for the summer months and all that came with them. It was also a time during which ancient peoples welcomed the coming darker months and prepared for, the larger fall festival, Samhain. During the equinox—September 22 this year—day and night are of equal length.

Most modern cultures say goodbye to summer with the beginning of school, or by celebrating Labor Day, but you can honor the equinox by adapting ancient traditions to suit your modern life. In fact, many of our fall festivities already draw inspiration from pagan traditions.

fall food in wooden basket
Photo by Fotolia/maglara.

Modern Traditions to Honor the Autumnal Equinox

Begin a gratitude practice. Gratitude has been shown to boost mood, improve sleep and even support immune health. Since the Autumnal Equinox is a time of thanks, consider beginning your own gratitude practice to honor the season and improve your overall health. Begin by making a short list of the things you’re thankful for on this day, and set an intention to make it a daily ritual.

Visit an apple orchard. Apples are one of many foods associated with the autumnal equinox and a symbol of wisdom. Whether you take your family apple picking or to the cider mill, this tradition is fun for all ages.

Plant something. Plant seeds for trees, shrubs or bulb plants, such as tulips or irises, to enjoy their beauty in spring. With the darkness of winter, seeds and bulbs will have plenty of time to germinate and take root.

Admire and preserve nature. As the weather begins to cool, enjoy time outdoors to admire the beauty of nature. Collect acorns, leaves and other natural elements to create home décor. If you’re not able, or don’t wish, to remove items, bring a trash bag and help keep local, natural havens free from litter.

Try fall cleaning—as opposed to spring cleaning. Indoor air can be far more polluted than outdoor air, which can lead to numerous health issues. Since we spend much more time indoors during fall and winter, make sure your home is ready for all your indoor activities. Choose non-toxic cleaning products to further reduce the number of pollutants.

Host a block party. Agricultural and rural societies understood the importance of building relationships with their neighboring communities and within their own community. In most modern cities, we’re lucky to even know our neighbors’ names. This year, start your own neighborhood tradition with a block party and get to know your immediate community. (You don’t have to announce that it’s an equinox celebration.) It’s also a perfect opportunity to serve up seasonal dishes featuring squash, apples and nuts, and sharing your favorite local wine.

Although the Autumnal Equinox is primarily associated with pagan mythology and modern pagan practices, you don’t have to be pagan to honor this tradition. You may have been celebrating all along, without even realizing it.