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Autumn descends upon Richmond

By Matthew Cheung

Published 2:04 PDT, Fri September 16, 2022

Last Updated: 1:10 PST, Wed December 14, 2022

As summer comes to an end, a new season will soon fall upon Richmond. 

Sept. 22, the date of the fall equinox, is the first official day of autumn this year. The start of the fall season also means that days will continue to get shorter, nights will get longer, many animals will enter hibernation, and birds and butterflies will migrate towards the south. 

The spring and fall equinoxes are also the two days when the sun rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west. For some, the fall equinox is the day where daytime and nighttime are about the same length; the sun will rise at 6 a.m. and set at 6 p.m. 

There are many customs and rituals related to the fall equinox around the world. In Greek mythology, the autumnal equinox marked the return of the goddess Persephone to the darkness of the underworld. In Japanese culture, the fall and spring equinoxes are times when Buddhists return to their hometowns to pay respects to their ancestors. 

In Chinese culture, the full moon that falls closest to the fall equinox, called the harvest moon, is celebrated due to a successful harvest of rice and wheat. This celebration has been going on since the Shang dynasty and offerings are also made to the moon. 

The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated in present day by many, with lanterns lighting up the streets and family and friends gathering to give thanks, share food, and enjoy mooncakes under the full moon. 

The people of the British Isles also give thanks for the harvest festivals during the fall equinox. The festivals are held on the Sunday closest to the harvest moon and would eventually be known by many outside of the United States as American Thanksgiving, to differentiate from Canadian Thanksgiving. American Thanksgiving was originally a celebration of thanks after a successful corn harvest. 

In the 1800s, a newly-designed French calendar was implemented in which every year started at midnight on the day of the fall equinox. This calendar was removed in 1806 by Emperor Napoleon I. Modern pagans celebrated a feast called Mabon on the day of the fall equinox, which was seen as a time to celebrate the gifts of the Earth. 

The onset of the fall equinox also signals optimal viewing of the aurora borealis, or northern lights. This display of coloured lights is only visible north of the Metro Vancouver area, although some have claimed they have seen the northern lights in the Metro Vancouver area with perfect conditions. 

The northern lights occur when particles from the sun strike atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere, using them to light up. The lights are at their peak during the equinoxes due to the disturbance in the Earth’s atmosphere. 

As the fall equinox nears, the summer season slowly comes to an end. Leaves’ colours will change to red, yellow, or orange, and they will eventually fall off trees. 

Temperatures will continue to drop as nights become longer in the northern hemisphere, resulting in clocks being set back by one hour for daylight savings time in November. 

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