What is the fall equinox and what does fall equinox mean? Here’s how to celebrate the autumn equinox with children, including 17 equinox lessons and children’s autumn equinox activities.
The fall equinox is sometimes called the autumn equinox (or autumnal equinox) and is an interesting learning opportunity for kids!
What Is Fall Equinox for Kids?
Fall Equinox Definition
Fall equinox is when the sun crosses into the earth’s equator and indicates the beginning of the fall in September in the Northern hemisphere and the beginning of spring in the Southern hemisphere. When the equinox happens, the length of day and night are approximately equal (12 hours each).
During this time, the sun is exactly above the planet’s equator, or the imaginary line around the middle of the earth (or any planet) that divides it into a Northern and Southern Hemisphere.
This means that every place on the planet on that one day experiences the same amount of daytime and nighttime!
This is a biannual occurrence, meaning that it happens twice each year (during the autumnal equinox in the fall and then again during the vernal equinox in the spring).
The dividing line between the areas that are in daytime and the areas that are in nighttime is called “the terminator.”
When Is Fall Equinox?
Fall Equinox Date: Fall Equinox 2020
The fall equinox 2020 is Tuesday, September 22, 2020, at 9:31 a.m.
What is special about the fall equinox?
Fall equinox is special because it’s a day when there is exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. After, the sun rises later and the night begins to fall earlier each evening. It is seen as the start of dormancy, hibernation, and rest.
How do you celebrate the fall equinox?
14 fun ways to have a special autumn equinox with kids:
- Make a harvest festival feast with local farm or famers’ market food items
- Make a gratitude list
- Go on a nature hike
- Learn about fall equinox rituals around the world
- Decorate with autumn themes like a wreath for your door
- Talk about your gratitude of nature and the earth
- Do fall themed crafts from items found in nature
- Press some fall leaves and then use them to decorate
- Enjoy warm tea while sitting outdoors
- Read books about fall
- Learn why leaves change in the fall
- Keep a nature journal or nature drawing journal
- Do some leaf and bark rubbings and frame them
- Have a bonfire
DON’T MISS OUR FULL LIST OF AUTUMN EQUINOX CHILDREN’S ACTIVITIES BELOW!
The fall equinox meaning comes from the Latin word aequinoctium, meaning “equal night-time.”
What are the 4 equinoxes?
There are equinoxes and solstices that include:
- Spring equinox (Vernal Equinox), that marks the beginning of spring
- Summer solstice, the longest day of the year and start of summer
- Autumnal equinox, marks the start of autumn
- Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year where there is more darkness than sunlight
“The autumnal equinox will signal the coming of winter for the North and the start of summer for the southern part of the world.” -National Geographic
What is equinox phenomenon?
An equinox happens every six months—once in the Spring with the vernal equinox and once in the fall with the autumnal equinox.
They occur every year and happen on every planet in the solar system!
There are only two times of the year when the Earth’s axis is tilted neither toward nor away from the sun, resulting in a ‘nearly’ equal amount of daylight and darkness at all latitudes. These events are referred to as Equinoxes.
As the Earth orbits the sun, it is tilted at a fixed angle. For half the year, the North Pole is tilted slightly toward the sun, bringing longer days to the Northern Hemisphere, while the South Pole is tilted slightly away from the sun, bringing fewer hours of sunlight to the Southern Hemisphere.
Then, as the Earth continues to move around the sun at its fixed angle, the North Pole is tilted slightly away from the sun. The equinox marks the point of the year where this transition occurs, and on the equinox the part of Earth closest to the sun is the equator, rather than places north or south.
What’s the difference in equinox and solstice?
Equinox happens when the daytime and nighttime hours are almost exactly the same length of time (“equal”).
There are two equinox happenings—fall and spring.
Solstice happens when the sun reaches the highest point (the longest day of the year), or the lowest point (the shortest day of the year).
There are also two solstices—one for summer and one for winter.
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Is the fall equinox pagan?
The equinox is a solar system phenomenon, so it actually doesn’t have an association.
It’s just science!
However, equinoxes have been (and still are) the center of historical, religious, and cultural celebrations around the world throughout time.
Since the September equinox marks the first day of autumn in the Northern hemisphere, it is often celebrated with the fall harvest (and has been for centuries).
Also, since there were no clocks in ancient cultures like the Druids (England) and the Mayans, use the sun, moon, and times like equinox and solstice were used to determine times of day and times of year.
Many scientists believe areas like Stonehenge were used to track happenings like the equinox and solstice.
Fall Equinox Customs and Traditions
Here are some examples of fall equinox traditions and customs:
• Traditional fall harvest celebrations, giving thanks for bounties and harvest
• Michaelmas, the Christian feast of the Archangel Michael (September 29) to replace pagan rituals
• Return of the goddess Persephone in Greek mythology
17 Fall Equinox Activities, Lesson Plans, and Projects for Kids
What do you do in the fall equinox?
Here are fall equinox activities and lesson plans to do with the kids:
• Review an animated graphic of the earth’s orbit.
• Learn about the Kukulcan where a snake shadow “crawls” down the side of the pyramid during the equinoxes.
• Learn about equinox celebrations from around the world.
• Read books about the solar system:
Can you really balance an egg on its end during the equinox?
Once last activity to cover is the fall equinox egg balance.
There are claims that during the equinoxes you can stand an egg on end because of the pull of equal gravity toward both the North and South.
However, the fall equinox egg balance is actually a myth.
You can, however, balance an egg (any day of the year!).