Autumn is upon us

This week marks an important change in the calendar as the Autumnal Equinox takes effect.

Many of you will have memories of your mum or dad raiding the cupboard at home to find a tin of baked beans to take into school for the Harvest Festival. However, do you know exactly what the Autumnal Equinox entails? We've looked at the science and culture of this annual event.

Each year the Autumnal Equinox occurs in September, usually around the 22, 23 or 24 of the month. This year's equinox officially started yesterday in the Northern Hemisphere, at precisely 10.21am (Eastern Daylight Time).

The word 'equinox' comes from the Latin words 'aequus' and 'nox', which mean 'equal' and 'night' because the day of the equinox has roughly an equal amount of daytime and night time, and marks the end of summer.

Around the world a number of traditions and celebrations are held to mark the Autumnal Equinox. Traditionally the equinox meant it was time to harvest the crops.

In Japan the equinox is marked with a period known as 'Ohigan'. The Japanese Buddhist belief is that the equinox is considered symbolic of the transitions of life. Therefore, during the week around the equinox (Ohigan), many Japanese people use this time to visit the graves of their ancestors, to pay their respects and to leave flowers. It is also considered a time of meditation, and many people also visit their living relatives.

In the UK people from all over the country head to Stonehenge in Wiltshire to watch the equinox sunrise. The equinox is a time for Druids, as well as other Pagan groups, to offer their thanks for a fruitful harvest and to prepare for another cold, dark winter. It is also a time of preparing for 'Samhain', a larger festival that runs from 31 October to 1 November, and signifies the start of winter.

Some other rituals include collecting harvest fruits and vegetables, meditation, gathering and feasting on apples, sharing food, and counting one's blessings at this time of year.

For most, rituals include digging out the woolly jumper, gloves, scarves and bobble hats (not forgetting the tinned food to take to school), and preparing for the shorter, colder days!

However you choose to mark the Autumnal Equinox, why not select a brilliant book to get stuck into as the evenings draw in? The Kumon Recommended Reading List has a magnitude of options for something to read (380 to be precise), so you will easily find something to suit everyone in the family.

"No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face." John Donne - English poet.
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