The Wonders of Fall

By Nikita Hillier


"Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons." – Jim Bishop


Jim Bishop really couldn’t have summed it up better when he said ‘Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons’. So just as it happens every year, it is time to fall in love with Fall all over again. When I think of fall, only the most picturesque and warm thoughts come to mind. For example, crisp autumn breezes, crackling log fires, and beautifully colored leaves falling delicately towards the ground. I think everyone can agree that during this time of the year, something special is in the air.



Fall Equinox

The mornings are colder, the nights longer, and the days shorter. Fall has begun; and with fall comes the fall equinox. Astronomers use the fall equinox to mark the transition from summer to fall in the Northern Hemisphere and although many people see the first day of fall as a full calendar day, the equinox itself is a fleeting astronomical event. The equinox happens at a precise moment when the suns direct rays are over the earth’s equator. This year’s equinox took place at 9:30 am (Eastern Standard Time) on September 22nd. The equinox occurs at the same moment worldwide, starting fall in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern Hemisphere.



Blue Moons

Blue Moons are actually fairly common in astronomical terms which is why the term ‘once in a blue Moon’ absolutely baffles me. The term ‘Blue Moon’ has several inconsistencies that you may have been previously unaware of. In fact, Blue Moons aren’t even blue! Blue Moons usually remain the same colour as any other Full Moon. In some extreme cases, a Blue Moon can turn red during a Lunar Eclipse, but this isn’t very common. In very rare circumstances the Moon may appear blue, but this is because of colour added to the Moon by a haze of dust particles in the atmosphere. Traditionally, the definition of a Blue Moon is the third Full Moon in an astronomical season containing four Full Moons.


Harvest Moon

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Full Moon closest to the fall equinox is called a Harvest Moon. This year’s Harvest Moon rises on Thursday, October 1st and reaches peak illumination at 5:05 PM (EDT). There is one thing that sets the Harvest Moon apart from other Full Moons, and that is that it’s not associated with a specific month, as the others are. Instead, the Harvest Moon relates to the timing of the fall equinox (September 22, 2020), and being the one closest to the fall equinox, it takes on the name “Harvest Moon.” This means that the Harvest Moon can occur in either September or October, depending on how the lunar cycle lines up with the Gregorian calendar.



Native American History of Full Moons

In early times, Native Americans did not have watches, smartphones, or even clocks to track time. Instead they recorded time by using the months of the Julian or Gregorian calendar. Although there were many variables, they still observed the seasons and lunar months to keep track of time. Some tribes believed the year contained four seasons and that the year would start with a certain season such as spring or fall whereas others believed a year contained five seasons. It was much the same with Moons. Some tribes believed a year contained 12 Moons while others believed it was 13.  Because Native American tribes relied so heavily on Moon patterns to track their time, they decided to name the Moons, but each tribe had its own naming preferences. A name one tribe would use could heavily vary compared to what another would use, or it could be the same name, just used for a different period. The names that were chosen often signified a particular activity or event that occurred during that time. For example, the Full Snow Moon earned its name because February is typically a time of heavy snowfall. Colonial Americans adopted some of the Native American Full Moon names and applied them to their own calendar system (primarily Julian, and later, Gregorian). The Full Moon Names used in the Almanac come from the Algonquin tribes who lived in regions from New England to Lake Superior. They are the names the Colonial Americans adopted most.



By now, you’ve likely heard that this year on Halloween a Full Moon will illuminate the sky for all the trick or treaters brave enough to wander out on a Full Moon night. You know about the alarming stories of ravenous werewolves howling at the moon, witches on broomsticks peeking in the windows and snatching children, or even the vampires lurking in the shadows, but there are far more reasons to be aware on Halloween. Especially when the Full Moon makes an appearance. Make sure to plan your Werewolf costumes accordingly, after all, things always do get a little ~weird~ when a Full Moon rises.