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Autumn Is Here

Hauntmaster, 09/22/2006

Tonight, September 22nd at 11:03 pm, is the Autumnal Equinox and marks the beginning of Autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere making tomorrow, September 23rd, the first full day of Fall.

From a scientific standpoint, the Autumnal Equinox marks the southbound crossing of our sun through the celestial equator. It's also a point at which the Earth's equator has zero tilt, resulting in nearly equal lengths of day and night. From here on, the days will shorten and nights will lengthen until the Winter Equinox on December 21st when we have the longest night of the year.

From a practical standpoint it means all us vampires, ghouls, and other assorted night lovers will have more time to play without that pesky sun to bother us. It also means that Halloween is right around the corner and if that's not a reason to scream in the night I don't know what is.

Autumn is the time of the harvest and for harvest festivals. The first of which is the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival traditional to many Asian cultures. The festival is usually held on and around the 15th day of the 8th Lunar month, which corresponds with the first full moon of Fall (Friday, October 6th this year).

The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival celebrates both the harvest and the moon. With the harvest completed it's time to pay debts, enjoy the fruits of our labor, and to gather together and celebrate with friends and family. It's the time to reflect upon the fullness of the moon and the fullness of one's own happiness.

A popular symbol of the holiday is the moon cake, a dense baked pastry in the shape of the full moon with a sweet filling. Many different varieties exist but all pay homage to the legend of the beautiful and immortal Chang'e, or woman on the moon, who according to various legends consumed a magic pill and floated away to the moon. The popularity of these cakes was increased, according to legend, when they were used to smuggle Chinese plans of rebellion against their Mongol rulers, the success of which eventually established the Ming dynasty.

Other activities common to the celebration include the burning of incense, dragon dances, planting trees, and the lighting of lanterns to guide Chang'e home from the moon.

San Francisco's Chinatown is a little unusual in that it holds its own Autumn Moon Festival every year on the first day of Autumn, which this year doesn't fall on the night of the full moon but rather the new moon. While there won't be a big wonderful full moon to look at and contemplate there will be entertainment in the form of parades, Chinese opera, dancers, musicians, martial artists, dragon dancers,  and a plethora of moon cakes to feast upon.

For more information about this year's San Francisco Autumn Moon Festival see our events calendar.


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