Autumnal Equinox Traditions

Przemyslaw "Blueshade" Idzkiewicz
Przemyslaw "Blueshade" Idzkiewicz

Today is the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, the point after which the nights become longer than the days, as the North Pole tilts away from the sun. We commonly know it as the first day of fall, although we’ve said goodbye to summer already in the rites of Labor Day and the beginning of the school year. We’ve told you about the traditions and celebrations surrounding the vernal equinox in the spring, and yes, there are traditions for its opposite— although not as many. While the beginning of spring is a joyous occasion, the waning of warm weather is a bit melancholy.

In pagan mythology, the equinox is called Mabon, or Second Harvest. It is a time to give thanks for the summer and to pay tribute to the coming darkness. It is also a time of preparing for Samhain (October 31–November 1), the bigger pagan festival that begins winter. Some Wiccan rituals for Mabon include building an altar with harvest fruits and vegetables, meditating on balance, gathering and feasting on apples, offering apples to the goddess, sharing food, and counting one’s blessings.

Photograph by Flickr user Lazaro Lazo.

Japan marks the equinoxes—both of them—with a period called Ohigan (sometimes spelled O-higan). The Japanese Buddhist belief is that the land of the afterlife is due west, and during the equinoxes, the sun sets directly west. The equinoxes are also symbolic of the transitions of life. The week around each equinox is Ohigan, a time to visit the graves of one's ancestors, to spruce up the grave sites, and to leave flowers. It is also a time of meditation and to visit living relatives.

Photograph by Shizhao.

China and Vietnam celebrate the Moon Festival, or Mid-Autumn Festival, which is on the full moon nearest to the equinox. On a lunar calendar, that is the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. It is celebrated with the usual festival activities, plus gazing at the moon and eating moon cakes. In the southern U.S., Moon Pies are often used in place of moon cakes. A similar holiday in Korea is called Chuseok

Photograph by Flickr user Matthew Hoelscher.

Michaelmas is the Catholic feast of the Archangel Michael. Some traditions use this feast day to celebrate other archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael as the Feast of the Angels. The feast day is September 29, which is celebrated as the beginning of fall in some places. It is thought that the feast was set near the autumn equinox to draw the faithful away from pagan celebrations, as are several other Christian holidays. Traditions include gathering and eating nuts (which began on Holy Rood Day on September 14), and eating a fattened goose, if you could afford that luxury. In centuries past in England, it was a time of transitions, as servants were paid their wages after the harvest, and workers scrambled to find new employment contracts. The employment fairs that facilitated this custom became an opportunity for community celebration. It is also a good time to eat blackberries, as “Old Michaelmas Day" (October 10th) is traditionally the cutoff time for picking blackberries.

Photograph by Flickr user Government Press Office.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year holiday, is 163 days after the first day of Passover. The date of Passover is set to begin the night of the full moon after the vernal equinox, so Rosh Hashanah has only a tangental relationship with the equinox.

Photograph by Flickr user Stonehenge Stone Circle.

Neo-Druids gather at Stonehenge to watch the equinox sunrise. This happens every year, both in spring and fall. As with other pagan groups, the equinox is a time for Druids to offer thanks for a bountiful harvest and prepare for the darkness of winter.

Photograph by Flickr user Stonehenge Stone Circle.

In the West, celebrations surrounding the fall equinox are less about the equinox itself and more about the activities of fall. We have county fairs and festivals, which are scheduled around school calendars and to maximize tourism. We celebrate Halloween all out of proportion to its historic roots, because it’s fun. We decorate with fall colors and harvest fruits for months at a time, and we split our holidays, celebrating the end of summer with Labor Day and giving thanks for a bountiful harvest on Thanksgiving. Together, those are all celebrations of fall.

Photograph by Flickr user Valerie Everett.

In the Southern Hemisphere, today is the first day of spring, which is a whole other holiday.

See also: How Did the Seasons Get Their Names?

10 of the Best Indoor and Outdoor Heaters on Amazon

Mr. Heater/Amazon
Mr. Heater/Amazon

With the colder months just around the corner, you might want to start thinking about investing in an indoor or outdoor heater. Indoor heaters not only provide a boost of heat for drafty spaces, but they can also be a money-saver, allowing you to actively control the heat based on the rooms you’re using. Outdoor heaters, meanwhile, can help you take advantage of cold-weather activities like camping or tailgating without having to call it quits because your extremities have gone numb. Check out this list of some of Amazon’s highest-rated indoor and outdoor heaters so you can spend less time shivering this winter and more time enjoying what the season has to offer.

Indoor Heaters

1. Lasko Ceramic Portable Heater; $20

Lasko/Amazon

This 1500-watt heater from Lasko may only be nine inches tall, but it can heat up to 300 square feet of space. With 11 temperature settings and three quiet settings—for high heat, low heat, and fan only—it’s a dynamic powerhouse that’ll keep you toasty all season long.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Alrocket Oscillating Space Heater; $25

Alrocket/Amazon

Alrocket’s oscillating space heater is an excellent addition to any desk or nightstand. Using energy-saving ceramic technology, this heater is made of fire-resistant material, and its special “tip-over” safety feature forces it to turn off if it falls over (making it a reliable choice for homes with kids or pets). It’s extremely quiet, too—at only 45 dB, it’s just a touch louder than a whisper. According to one reviewer, this an ideal option for a “very quiet but powerful” heater.

Buy it: Amazon

3. De’Longhi Oil-Filled Radiator Space Heather; $79

De’Longhi/Amazon

If you prefer a space heater with a more old-fashioned vibe, this radiator heater from De’Longhi gives you 2020 technology with a vintage feel. De’Longhi’s heater automatically turns itself on when the temperatures drops below 44°F, and it will also automatically turn itself off if it starts to overheat. Another smart safety feature? The oil system is permanently sealed, so you won’t have to worry about accidental spills.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Aikoper Ceramic Tower Heater; $70

Aikoper/Amazon

Whether your room needs a little extra warmth or its own heat source, Aikoper’s incredibly precise space heater has got you covered. With a range of 40-95°F, it adjusts by one-degree intervals, giving you the specific level of heat you want. It also has an option for running on an eight-hour timer, ensuring that it will only run when you need it.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Isiler Space Heater; $37

Isiler/Amazon

For a space heater that adds a fun pop of color to any room, check out this yellow unit from Isiler. Made from fire-resistant ceramic, Isiler’s heater can start warming up a space within seconds. It’s positioned on a triangular stand that creates an optimal angle for hot air to start circulating, rendering it so effective that, as one reviewer put it, “This heater needs to say ‘mighty’ in its description.”

Buy it: Amazon

Outdoor Heaters

6. Mr. Heater Portable Buddy; $104

Mr. Heater/Amazon

Make outdoor activities like camping and grilling last longer with Mr. Heater’s indoor/outdoor portable heater. This heater can connect to a propane tank or to a disposable cylinder, allowing you to keep it in one place or take it on the go. With such a versatile range of uses, this heater will—true to its name—become your best buddy when the temperature starts to drop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiland Pyramid Patio Propane Heater; Various

Hiland/Amazon

The cold’s got nothing on this powerful outdoor heater. Hiland’s patio heater has a whopping 40,000 BTU output, which runs for eight to 10 hours on high heat. Simply open the heater’s bottom door to insert a propane tank, power it on, and sit back to let it warm up your backyard. The bright, contained flame from the propane doubles as an outdoor light.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Solo Stove Bonfire Pit; $345

Solo Stove/Amazon

This one is a slight cheat since it’s a bonfire pit and not a traditional outdoor heater, but the Solo Stove has a 4.7-star rating on Amazon for a reason. Everything about this portable fire pit is meticulously crafted to maximize airflow while it's lit, from its double-wall construction to its bottom air vents. These features all work together to help the logs burn more completely while emitting far less smoke than other pits. It’s the best choice for anyone who wants both warmth and ambiance on their patio.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Dr. Infrared Garage Shop Heater; $119

Dr. Infrared/Amazon

You’ll be able to use your garage or basement workshop all season long with this durable heater from Dr. Infrared. It’s unique in that it includes a built-in fan to keep warm air flowing—something that’s especially handy if you need to work without wearing gloves. The fan is overlaid with heat and finger-protectant grills, keeping you safe while it’s powered on.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Mr. Heater 540 Degree Tank Top; $86

Mr. Heater/Amazon

Mr. Heater’s clever propane tank top automatically connects to its fuel source, saving you from having to bring any extra attachments with you on the road. With three heat settings that can get up to 45,000 BTU, the top can rotate 360 degrees to give you the perfect angle of heat you need to stay cozy. According to a reviewer, for a no-fuss outdoor heater, “This baby is super easy to light, comes fully assembled … and man, does it put out the heat.”

Buy it: Amazon

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10 Famous Birthdays to Celebrate in September

Chloe Effron // Getty Images
Chloe Effron // Getty Images

September 9 is reportedly the most popular date for babies to be born, and September is the busiest month for birthdays. But that doesn't mean it's a month for commoners. Here are a few notable (and noble) people who were born in September.

1. September 7, 1533: Queen Elizabeth


George Gower via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

England’s first Queen Elizabeth had a bit of a complicated path to the throne. When her father, King Henry VIII, died in 1547, the throne passed to his 9-year-old son Edward VI (from his third marriage to Jane Seymour). Edward died six years later at age 15, but in that time he'd already changed the order of succession and named his cousin Lady Jane Grey as his successor. Grey ruled for just nine days before the Privy Council declared Mary (daughter of Henry and first wife, Catherine of Aragon) queen instead. Mary I, also known as Bloody Mary, reigned for five tumultuous years until she died at age 42 without heirs. Elizabeth finally ascended the throne in 1558 at age 25 and ruled for 45 years. Like her siblings, she died without an heir and her reign was the last of the Tudor dynasty.

2. September 9, 1890: Colonel Harland Sanders

Colonel Sanders will always be known as the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, but he was 40 years old before he even began selling food at his gas station in Corbin, Kentucky. Before that, he worked as a farmhand, a painter, a streetcar conductor, a blacksmith’s assistant, a railroad fireman, a lawyer, an insurance salesman, a secretary, a midwife, and a ferry operator. He didn't own his first KFC franchise until age 62.

3. September 13, 1916: Roald Dahl

Ronald Dumont / Getty Images

Roald Dahl, the British author who gave us Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and many other memorable stories, did some of his most profound writing outside the realm of fiction. In 1962, Dahl's eldest child, Olivia—the apple of his eye—died after contracting measles that developed into measles encephalitis. Dahl wrote about the loss in his private diary, an entry which was uncovered by his family long after the writer's death. While that prose stayed private during Dahl's life, in 1988 he wrote an open letter to parents about the measles vaccine, which was published in a pamphlet from the Sandwell Health Authority. You can read the entire heart-wrenching letter here.

4. September 15, 1890: Agatha Christie

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Dame Agatha Christie holds the world record as the best-selling novelist ever. While much credit can be given to her pure talent and imagination, Christie was also influenced by her time spent working at a Red Cross hospital during World War I. She was trained in pharmacy work for the job, but became obsessed with the fear of accidentally poisoning someone. No wonder so many of her fictional victims—83 in all—were poisoned.

5. September 16, 1924: Lauren Bacall

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Anyone who has seen one of Lauren Bacall's more than 70 movie and television appearances knows that the legendary actor was magnetic—a fact that didn't escape those around her during her very first movie. Bacall was only 20 years old when she was cast in To Have and Have Not (1944). On set, she met and fell in love with Humphrey Bogart, who was 44 years old and married at the time. The chemistry between the two was so evident that the filmmakers worked to expand her screen time until she had a lead role. A year later, she and Bogart were married, and went on to make three more films together—1946's The Big Sleep, Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948).

6. September 18, 1905: Greta Garbo

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Greta Garbo was a bit of an unlikely movie star; she was a notorious introvert who stopped giving interviews early in her career, making 32 movies and then retiring from Hollywood at age 35. Her enigmatic nature was one of the reasons she was recruited to work for the British intelligence agency MI6 during World War II. The exceedingly-recognizable Garbo couldn’t go undercover, but she socialized with persons of interest and reported evidence of their sympathies back to headquarters. She also helped talk the king of Sweden, Gustav V, into meeting with physicist Niels Bohr, which ultimately led the king to offer asylum to Danish Jews. She was criticized in public for not doing enough for the war effort, but in typical Garbo fashion, she kept silent about her espionage activities.

7. September 22, 1791: Michael Faraday

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Among other scientific breakthroughs, English chemist and physicist Michael Faraday gave us the concept of an electromagnetic field and invented devices that paved the way for our everyday use of electricity. He was quite an educator, too. In addition to his work for the Royal Institution, Faraday inaugurated a series of science lectures designed for children in 1825, when such curriculum was rare. He gave 19 of the so-called Christmas Lectures (the last in 1860), and the series continues to this day.

8. September 23, 1838: Victoria Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for U.S. president.Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for President of the United States, despite the fact that, at the time (1872), she couldn’t legally vote! Women in office was a radical idea, but Woodhull was a radical woman in many ways. She divorced twice, invested in the stock market, published a newspaper, and worked as a clairvoyant. Woodhull ran for president on the Equal Rights Party ticket, but spent election night in jail on indecency charges for calling out the hypocrisy of a local minister.

9. September 24, 1936: Jim Henson

Jim Henson was the genius behind The Muppets, but he didn’t grow up with grand aspirations of puppeteering. As a high school senior in 1954, he landed a position with a local television station that wanted a show with puppets. Henson—then only an amateur puppet maker and operator—decided he could learn as he went along. The show only lasted for two episodes, but that was enough time for Henson to make some contacts and an impression. More television appearances soon followed.

10. September 25, 1930: Shel Silverstein

Beloved children's author Shel Silverstein has quite the claim to fame in the music world, though few people know about it: He wrote the Johnny Cash hit "A Boy Named Sue." Silverstein first played the ditty for the country crooner at a party in 1969, and days later, Cash played it during the live recording of At San Quentin. Columbia Records then released the song, and it went to #2 on the pop charts, becoming Cash's biggest-selling single. Silverstein nabbed a Grammy for the tune and a year later, he appeared on The Johnny Cash Show to perform it with the Man in Black himself. In 1978, Silverstein followed up with a sequel called "The Father of a Boy Named Sue," which recounted the saga from dear old dad's perspective.

This story has been updated for 2020.