The First Day of Fall
Also known as
The Fall Equinox
when the Sun crosses the celestial equator from north to south
The First Day of Fall, also known as The Fall Equinox or Autumnal Equinox, takes place when the Sun crosses the celestial equator—an imaginary line in the sky directly above the earth's Equator—from North to the South. When the autumnal equinox occurs in the Northern Hemisphere, the vernal equinox occurs in the Southern Hemisphere. During this time the sun shines directly on the Equator, and the length of day and night is nearly equal. Days continue to shorten in the Northern Hemisphere as the earth's axis begins to tilt away from the sun, and days lengthen in the Southern Hemisphere as the opposite occurs there. With this, fall, which is the transition period from summer to winter, is started in the Northern Hemisphere. Temperatures begin to cool and leaves fall from deciduous trees.
The word "autumn" has Etruscan roots, and was used by the Romans before becoming the Latin word "autumnus". It was used sparingly in the Middle Ages, and came into wide use in the 16th century. Referring to the season as "harvest" was prevalent prior to the 16th century, and the use of the term "fall" has Germanic roots and became a widespread term used in England in the 16th century—deriving its name from the phrases "fall of the leaf" and "fall of the year." Although the term is now used less in England, it was brought by immigrants to North America and has remained in wide use there.
The season is closely associated with Halloween and Thanksgiving Day, and the traditions that go with those holidays. Tourism is important in some areas because of the beautiful colors of the fall leaves. But, at the same time the season is associated with melancholy, as colder weather is on its way. The season is also associated with the harvesting of crops, and the harvest moon, which is the full moon that occurs closest to the equinox.
How to Observe
Celebrate the day by doing something associated with fall:
- pick apples—maybe you can even make your own apple cider or bake an apple pie
- pick and carve a pumpkin
- drink Oktoberfest beer or find an Oktoberfest or other fall festival to go to
- go on a hayride
- watch a baseball game—the World Series isn't too far away
- watch a football game—fall is the season of high school, college, and professional football
- rake some leaves—maybe enough have already fallen that you can jump in a pile of them, or you could collect some colorful leaves and plan to do so for the rest of the season
- pick out what you will wear for Halloween
- plan a fall trip to see the changing colors of the leaves
- read poetry that deals with fall, such as John Keats' "To Autumn", William Butler Yeats' "The Wild Swans at Coole", and "Autumn Song" by Paul Verlaine
- watch a film that takes place during fall
- listen to music associated with the season, such as Neil Young's Harvest Moon, George Winston's Autumn, or John Coltrane's "Equinox"