Autumn equinox 2023: when it falls and 7 curiosities

The autumn equinox 2023 is upon us: this year, it falls on Saturday 23 September, at 08:49. It is an astronomical phenomenon that has always fascinated man: in fact there are many curiosities and legends about it, which also involve ancient peoples, from the Maya to the Greek and Roman civilizations.

Autumn equinox 2023: when it falls and 7 curiosities

L’autumnal equinox definitively marks the fine dell’estate: with the arrival of September and the consequent drop in temperatures, the hot season passes the baton to a period of colours, milder climate and shorter days.

However, the autumnal equinox is not just a astronomical phenomenon, since over the centuries it has been associated with traditions, age-old customs, religious beliefs and rituals. But what is meant by the autumnal equinox, when does it fall in 2023 and, above all, which anniversaries are celebrated in Italy?

Il transition between summer and autumn it has fascinated man since ancient times, also because it represented a period of wealth. After the hard work of the summer to cultivate the fields, the time came to enjoy the rich fruits of one’s harvest.

Below, all the useful information on the astronomical phenomenon, its main celebrations and, above all, 7 incredible curiosities.

When does the autumnal equinox fall in 2023?


By tradition and convenience, it is customary to celebrate the autumnal equinoxes on September 21st, when summer gives way to the following season according to the calendar. In reality, the date can vary from year to year, with a time frame of September 20th to 22nd.

For 2023, the autumnal equinox is even postponed Saturday 23 September at 8.49am of the Italian time. But what does the variability of the date depend on? It is due to the Gregorian calendar.

The Gregorian year and the solar year are not identical: the Earth in fact takes 365 days and 6 hours to complete its motion around the Sun. This gap of approximately six hours is made up for at the calendar level with the introduction of leap years , with an extra day in February every four years.

Precisely this variation also determines the postponement or advance of the equinoxes on a calendar level: this is why they can occur on different days.

And when will the next appointments be?

  • Winter Solstice 2023: Friday 22 December at 04:27 Italian time;
  • Spring Equinox 2024: March 20 at 03:06;
  • Summer Solstice 2024: June 20;
  • Autumn Equinox 2024: September 22.

What is the autumnal equinox?

From an astronomical point of view, the autumnal equinox is a phenomenon caused by the revolutionary motion of the Terra around the Sole. In two well-defined moments of the year – in spring and autumn – our star is at the zenith from the Equator: this singular position allows the sun’s rays to hit the planet perpendicularly.

Precisely due to the relative position of the Sun with respect to the earth, a phenomenon occurs during the equinoxes particular circumstance: day and night have the same duration. It is no coincidence that even the name itself suggests it: equinox derives from the Latin “horse-night”, that is, night equals day.

This phenomenon happens twice a year: in spring, with the transition from winter to the milder season, and in autumn, with the end of the sultry heat and the beginning of a colder period.

autumn leaves

How are the equinoxes calculated?

It is natural to ask how the equinoxes are calculated, how to establish a priori when these astronomical phenomena will occur exactly. This is a fairly complex operation, which requires some experience in astronomy.

In short, the positions of the Sun and the Earth are predicted at any given moment, the reference latitude, the Earth’s motion around the Sun and the inclination between the two celestial bodies are verified. Thanks to these considerations, it is possible to obtain an extremely reliable prediction on when the equinox will occur.

What are the differences between equinox and solstice

The equinoxes are not the only astronomical phenomena involving the Sun and the Earth, they also occur during the year solstices. As a result, every year we will have two equinoxes – one autumnal and one summer – two solstices, in winter and in summer. But what is their difference?

From an astronomical point of view, these different conditions occur:

  • Equinox: the Sun is at the zenith with respect to the Earth, this determines solar spraying with rays perfectly perpendicular to the Equator;
  • Solstice: the Sun is at its maximum or minimum angle away from the Equator.

As already mentioned, during the equinoxes the length of day and night is identical. On the occasion of the spring one, the days will then gradually begin to get longer. Coinciding with the autumn one, the days will begin to get shorter.

However, it is worth remembering that equinoxes and solstices do not have the same effects on the planet. The phenomena are in fact reversed between Boreal Emisphere ed southern hemisphere: when the autumn equinox occurs in the North of the Planet, the spring equinox is experienced in the South, and vice versa. The same also applies to the solstices.

autumn equinox

Autumn equinox: traditions and curiosities

Going beyond the more purely astronomical explanation, the autumnal equinox has always represented a moment of great fascination and celebration for man, since ancient times. On the other hand, pre-Columbian civilizations had already developed the ability to carefully observe the stars and had noticed precisely these two annual moments where day and night had the same duration.

Generally speaking, almost all ancient civilizations associated the autumnal equinox with a moment of calm and wealth: after the labors in the summer fields, the time had come to enjoy the harvest.

Not surprisingly, the autumnal equinox is often represented with a cornucopia, a bowl where fruit, vegetables and other delicacies flow seamlessly. Not only positive elements, however, but also apprehension: the autumnal equinox also marks the return of the cold and the shortening of the days, thus preparing for a difficult period.

Pre-Columbian civilizations

As already mentioned, the pre-Columbian civilizations they had developed a great attention to the study of the stars and, in addition to knowing the constellations, they had learned to distinguish equinoxes and solstices. Not surprisingly, the pyramids Maya it is hypothesized that they were also used for observing the sky, given their privileged position.

And it is precisely the Mayan culture that made the autumn equinox a truly important moment. During this event, it was believed that some gods descended to Earth, both to usher in the harvest season and to warn humans about the onset of the cold season. And so the people gave the gods the best fruits of the harvest, flowers, animals and other types of sacrifices.

The tradition linked to the god is particular Kukulkan, “the feathered serpent”. At the archaeological site of Chichen Itza, in Yucatan, during the equinoxes on the pyramid of Kukulkàn a play of shadows is formed: a profile that looks exactly like a snake. Even today, the site attracts thousands of people during this astronomical passage.

autumn leaves

Greek and Roman civilizations

Even the Greek and Roman civilizations they celebrated the equinoxes, with meanings not too dissimilar to the then very distant – and unknown – pre-Columbian populations.

For the Greeks, the month of September represented a period of celebrations, so much so that the most important annual anniversaries fell in this period. Coinciding with the equinox, the Eleusinian mysteriesdedicated to the descent of Persephone in the Underworld. A moment to underline the eternal alternation between light and darkness, between life and death, precisely in relation to the progressive shortening of the days.

The Romans also celebrated similar myths and, starting from 63 BC, this date took on more meaning, as it coincided with the birth ofemperor Augustus. Huge city festivals were organised, including sumptuous lunches and liters of wine, with offerings of fruit and vegetables to the Ara Pacis.

Nordic civilizations, Stonehenge and Freemasonry

The Nordic and Celtic civilizations celebrated Baby during the autumnal equinox: the young god of harvests. Son of the mother goddess Modron, he was kidnapped after his birth and then freed by King Arthur. Symbol of water – so much so that it is represented as a river – it underlines the abundance of autumn harvests, the consumption of products sown with so much effort, the enrichment before the harsh winter.

Speaking of Nordic civilizations one cannot fail to mention Stonehenge, Britain’s great archaeological site. The history of these enormous monoliths, arranged in a circle, is still shrouded in mystery.

But it certainly has to do with equinoxes and solstices since, during these astronomical phenomena, the light passes perfectly through the cracks, giving a unique spectacle of its kind. Even today, Stonehenge is a destination for thousands of tourists precisely in conjunction with the solstices and equinoxes.

For the Masonryfinally, the autumn equinox corresponds with the strength of Libra and the resumption of spiritual work, while the spring equinox indicates the actual beginning of the Masonic year.

7 curiosities to know about the autumnal equinox

  1. When the autumnal equinox occurs in the Northern Hemisphere, those who live in the southern hemisphere call it the vernal equinox.
  2. During the equinoxes day and night are the same all over the world. The equinox occurs at the same time regardless of where you are.
  3. The days get shorter after the autumnal equinox and continue to get shorter until the winter solstice in December. The shortest day of the year.
  4. In astrology, the autumn equinox marks the moment when the sun enters the sign of Libra, which represents balance.
  5. The full moon that falls near the autumnal equinox is referred to as the harvest moon. It is said to be so bright that it allows farmers to work late in the fields.
  6. The autumn equinox is celebrated in China at a festival known as the Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival, where there is a great abundance of food.
  7. The date of the equinox varies every year and this depends on the difference between how the Gregorian calendar defines a year (365 days) and the time it actually takes for the Earth to complete its orbit around the Sun (about 365 1/4 days).
Source: Pixabay

Autumn equinox in Italy: holidays and anniversaries

The autumn equinox is also celebrated throughout Italiawith anniversaries related to popular tradition. Let’s look at the most well-known ones.

  • Feast of the Archangel Michael: celebrated in part of Europe and especially in Southern Italy, it is based on Christian iconography. Michael is the defender of the Light against the eternal Darkness and symbolizes man’s struggle with the difficult season that is about to arrive. Normally there is a week of celebrations, culminating on September 29th, including rich lunches, dancing in the square, religious celebrations and torchlight processions;
  • San Giovanni a Piro: the equinox festival in San Giovanni a Piro, in Campania, is famous. For decades, parties in the square, religious celebrations and concerts have been organized here to close the summer period in style. The celebrations also involve the neighboring hamlets of Scario and Bosco;
  • Piedmont and Puglia: in many areas of Piedmont and Puglia the bread festival is celebrated, made thanks to the summer harvests, an anniversary linked to the aforementioned Archangel Michael. In particular, numerous events are always scheduled at the Piedmontese Sagra di San Michele and at the festival of the same name in Montesantangelo in Puglia.

Source: GreenStyle by

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