In almost every corner of the world, autumn is a time for harvest, reflection, and reverence for our ancestors, and many fall holidays reveal those very themes.
One of the purposes of the changes of seasons is to notice changes we might not have if everything stayed the same. Each season prompts us to reflect and go inward. It is a time to pause and review our lives. As we take the time to stop and honor the life changes we are experiences, we build a bridge between our everyday existence and the sacred.
Whether we’re aware of their deeper significance or not, even our most simple and commonplace autumn traditions, such as apple picking and dressing up for Halloween, reflect the ancient themes of harvest and ancestor worship.
In Melanesia, people make rice dollies out of the last plants of the harvest; in England, they make corn dollies. Both practices represent the belief that the spirit of the grain will stay alive, thereby ensuring another good harvest.
This year on Oct 3rd the Chinese will celebrate the Harvest Moon Festival by eating special moon cakes and catching the moon’s refection in a bowl of water. A similar holiday is observed in Vietnam-the mid-fall festival of Trung Thu-where people celebrates the beauty of the moon by eating moon cakes, lighting incenses, and making special star lanterns. And in Korea it is called Chu Suk- Korean Thanksgiving.
Fall is also a tie for honoring the connection between the living and the dead, as well as the natural order of life, death, and regeneration. It’ no accident that after the Jewish New Year
Rosh Hashana, comes by Yom Kippur, the day of atonement and also a time when the deceased are honored, and then Sukkot , the harvest festival.
Celebrate the Autumn Equinox (September 22nd)
The Equinoxes are the two days out of the whole year when the northern and southern hemispheres receive the same amount of sunlight and the days and nights are the same length. It represents balance and a pause between the summer –a time of lots of activity—and winter-a time of hibernating and slowing down. From now on the days will be getting shorter and the nights longer.
This is also the time when the ancient Greeks celebrated the sacred Eleusian rites – a time when the Goddess descends into the underworld. This was the most important goddess festival in all of Europe
Celebrate the Harvest
Get together with friends and family to create a special meal using food of the season: use corn, squash, root vegetables, and grains. Decorate your home with symbols of autumn: colored leaves, Indian corn, cranberries, apples.
Dunk for apples
Place a large tub on the floor and half fill it with water. Place apples in the tub. With their hands behind their backs each player takes his or her turn trying to capture the apples with his or her teeth.
Create an altar and fill it with symbols of what you have personally harvested at this time: your new script, a miniature car or home, a picture of you in vibrant health, money. Let your children participate and acknowledge their successes even if they are small.
Make sure to take time to make a contribution to your community for the blessings you have this Fall season. The more we give the more we receive. Give to the local food bank, volunteer you time to tutor a child, donate clothes, books or toys to your Temple, Church or local community center. It is important to appreciate what we do have and not focus on lack. Life is a precious gift and we need to value every moment.