The Autumn Equinox is upon us and you know what that means? OK, you probably don’t know much about this day other than the news media is telling you that it is the first day of Fall. You may also associate the day with the start of when things are going to get colder, the leaves are about to change colors, etc… While all of this is true, it is just brushing the surface of what is really going on with the world on this date. Here are five things to help explain this day and why it is important…
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The Autumnal Equinox describes a time when the world is perfectly parallel with the sun. It isn’t leaning on its axis one way or the other. This happens twice a year. It is called Autumnal in the northern hemisphere (the upper half of the globe), because each day until the Winter Solstice, the earth will be rotating it’s half away from the sun. At the same time, the southern hemisphere (the lower half of the globe) is going to start rotating towards the sun. This is called the Vernal Equinox. When the United States is going through Autumn, places like Australia are warming up for Spring.
Autumnal and Vernal are Latin words to describe the seasons. At one time, the Romans pretty much ruled everything. Because of this, they got to name a lot of what we call things. Julius Caesar was one of these people. He made a calendar so people could know what date it was. We call this the Julian Calendar. A few hundred years later, one of the popes in Rome, Pope Gregory XIII decided to change it to match the calendar along with Easter. We call this the Gregorian calendar and it remains the one most of us use today.
Somewhere there are. Not everywhere. It depends on where you are on the globe during the equinox. It’s a lot of complex scientific calculating, but when the time of day is spit equally, this is called the equilux. If you are close to the equator, you are unlikely to even have an equilux. The equinox is designed to go along with the general position of the earth.
Have you ever wondered why we have Leap Year? It had nothing to do with the Olympics. It’s because of the Equinox. Every year, the equinox falls about 6 years later than the time the year before. So, every four years, we get an extra day out of it. Every 70 years or so, the dates of the equinox change completely. It is a way of resetting time. Now, how they figured this out in the Middle Ages is beyond my comprehension…
In the United States, there is not much to do about the Autumn Equinox. It is mentioned on the news and people will tell others it is “the first day of Fall”, but that is about it. In Europe, there are harvest festivals to celebrate that date back to the Middle Ages. Wiccans and neo-Pagans call the day, Mabon – a sort of Thanksgiving. It is even celebrated in Asia, although they do not use the same calendar as the Western world. Here, especially in China, it is considered a national holiday.