Fall Travel Highlights: Equinox Celebrations Around the World
All over the world, people of different cultures celebrate the changing of the seasons. The fall equinox celebrations are a big yearly milestone for many countries, because they celebrate the traditional harvest and welcome the cooler season.
Here are some of the most interesting autumn traditions from around the globe!
Moon Festival - China
Also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Moon Festival is one of the most important celebrations in Chinese culture! It is almost as popular as the Chinese New Year.
If you visit China during this time, you will know it when you see it! Traditionally, the city streets are lit up with lanterns of all sizes and colors. You will even see floating lanterns!
Making mooncakes is another long-standing tradition of this fall equinox celebration. A traditional mooncake is a small round pastry with a rich thick filling usually made from lotus seed paste (other typical fillings include red bean paste or mixed nuts) surrounded by a thin crust. During the Moon Festival, the eldest member of each family slices a mooncake and passes it out to the family to signify unity between each member.
This festival is also used to celebrate marriages, and many cities even host matchmaking activities for young people!
Stonehenge Sunrise - United Kingdom
While this is a lesser-known autumn tradition, it is every bit as interesting as the others!
Every year at dusk on the morning of the autumn equinox, visitors from all over the world gather around Stonehenge to watch the morning sun rise over the stones and cast its autumn light over the land for the first time that year.
If you want to participate, don’t let a fear of not fitting in stop you – each year, the crowd is a mix of those participating in Pagan and Wiccan traditions that celebrate Mabon alongside local families and tourists.
Visitors who have witnessed this equinox celebration liken it to a spiritual experience. You can see for yourself how the crowd goes silent as the sun rises!
Higan - Japan
Higan is a Buddhist celebration that takes place exclusively in Japan during the 3 days before and after both the spring and autumn equinoxes.
This autumn tradition is based on the fact that the sun sets in the west during the equinox, which is where Japanese followers of the Buddhist religion believe the afterlife can be found.
The Japanese honor this equinox celebration by visiting, cleaning, and decorating the graves of family and friends who have passed on. They make a point to meditate and spend time with living family members, too!
Chichen Itza - Mexico
The Mayans were devoted astronomers, and it’s obvious in their architecture. Chichen Itza is a large, archaeological site found in Yucatán, Mexico.
Every year during the fall equinox celebration, visitors gather to see the “snake of sunlight” that appears on the steps of the main pyramid right as the sun shines over the equator.
The coolest part is that this was always intentional! The Mayans used their advanced knowledge of astronomy to construct the pyramid in a way that the “snake of sunlight” is seen every year on both the spring and autumn equinoxes.
Kokino Observatory - Macedonia
While most of the autumn traditions on this list have been practiced for hundreds if not thousands of years, gathering to see the equinox at the Kokino Observatory is a newer one. After all, this ancient site was only discovered by archaeologists in 2001!
This megalithic structure is found in the northeastern side of the country on a hill formed from volcanic rocks. This type of stone was easy for the ancient Macedonians to carve and craft into a variety of markers to measure the sun and moon’s locations. The observatory became an important ancient site for religious offerings and events.
Since its discovery, travelers and locals alike have gathered at this historic site for the equinox celebration! Just be aware that it is in a remote location, so come prepared if you plan to witness the autumn equinox at Kokino Observatory!