Labor Day is past and Autumn is almost here: fall officially begins on September 21st, the Autumnal equinox. On the equinox, the day and night hours are equal in length, before the days begin to shorten for the fall and winter.
The term “harvest moon” comes from the full moon that occurs nearest to the equinox, which in the past, farmers used to take advantage of the bright light for harvesting.
The changing color of leaves is one of the surest signs that fall has arrived; the pigments responsible for the red, orange, and yellow are present in leaves year-round, but the chlorophyll that makes them green is stronger than the other colors when the sun is strongest. With less sun, the chlorophyll fades and the warmer colors become more prominent. Red and purple pigments are actually caused by sap sugars.
Animals make changes during the fall, too: squirrels collect seeds, nuts, and acorns throughout the fall and hide them in tunnels and nests they build for shelter during the winter. Birds begin to “fly south for the winter” (although they don’t necessarily all go south), migrating to warmer places, sometimes flying up to 11,000 miles. Monarch butterflies fly as much as 2,500 miles from all over the U.S to Mexico and Southern California, the only insect to make that kind of migration.
In Ecuador in the fall, people celebrate Dia de Difuntos, eating traditional sweetbreads as they honor their loved ones who have passed away. The Chinese celebrate the moon festival to offer thanks for an abundant summer harvest. Indians look forward to Diwali, the festival of lights, while Cambodians celebrate the Water Festival that marks the end of the rainy season. Similar festivals are celebrated throughout Thailand, where floating lanterns are lit and released by the hundreds into the sky and lotus-shaped handmade boats are floated onto rivers to make a wish and honor the goddess of water.
Aurora Borealis – the famous Northern Lights – are at their most colorful and visible during the autumn; this is because the cooler weather contributes to stronger electromagnetic storms.