The Autumn Equinox has been called the Witches' Thanksgiving. It is the second (middle) of the three harvest festivals, beginning with the First Harvest and ending with Samhain, or the Last Harvest. The first harvest marked the beginning of the grain and small fruit harvest as well as the cutting and replanting of cool weather crops, such as those in the cabbage family. The Autumn Equinox marks the tree fruit harvest. Apples, plums, pears and more. The activity of this harvest is a visit to the Cider Mill. Oh yea. I don't like donuts, but when you go to the cider mill, it's all about cider and donuts. Yum. And our favorite cider mill has apple cider slushies and just happens to hold a festival at just the right time for our Autumn Equinox celebration.

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While we're there, we load up on fresh apples (maybe we pick 'em, maybe we buy 'em pre-picked) to add to the haul from our singular and ancient apple tree and a few jugs of cider, which freezes well. At home, we make apple butter and mulled cider and fill the house with the sweet, spicy aroma. Apple butter freezes, and it's great on yogurt, waffles and pancakes and as a side for potato and cottage cheese pierogis.

Most exciting about the Autumn Equinox is that once it's out of the way, it's time to start thinking about Halloween- Our favorite holiday.

This festival is also called Mabon and Harvest Home.

Pick Something

We live on a farm and we pick things all the time. So, when we go to the apple orchard, it's not exciting to us to pick things. Why pay to do work we could do for free at home (And they don't cost less! I checked! What's up with that?) BUT, if you don't have your own fruit trees, you and your kids should certainly take the time to spend a few hours at a you-pick orchard near you to commune with the trees and gain some insight into the work that goes into gathering these crops. It will build appreciation and gratitude for the trees and the farm workers. It's also good exercise out in the fresh air and sunshine and lots of talking can be done while picking.

Give Thanks

The Autumn Equinox is call the Pagan (or Witches) Thanksgiving, so why not have a Thanksgiving celebration. Even if you don't have a big special meal (I don't, who has time this time of year?), you can take a few minutes before your meal to say a prayer and have everyone discuss what they're thankful for. Perhaps do something craftsy that you can leave up as a decoration through the rest of the season, like maybe a tree with paper leaves that everyone wrote their gratitude on.

Honor the Darkness

During the Autumn Equinox, the sun is directly over the equator and the day and night are of equal length, but after the Autumn Equinox the days are shorter than the nights. This festival marks the beginning of the dark half of the year. So, at sunset, perhaps you could say a little prayer or meditation or have a little ritual to mark that.

Do Your Autumn Cleaning

Spring cleaning gets all the press but autumn cleaning is just as important. You need to have your furnace serviced, change various filters, pull out and wash all your long johns and winter coats, fluff up your sweaters and put away your booty shorts and bikinis. Make sure your snow shovel (plow, blower) is in good working order and maybe buy a couple bags of road salt, check the condition of your tires and maybe have your car serviced while you're at it. It might not be time to put plastic on the windows yet, but maybe you should check the weather sealing and caulk. When you're all done with that, do a little house blessing ritual if you haven't lately. Is all the energy in there right now the energy you want to be shut in for winter with?

Shed What You Don't Need

Take a tip from the trees and get rid of what you don't need. While you're doing your autumn cleaning, pack up some stuff and donate it- your kids don't fit in any of last year's winter stuff anyway. As part of your Autumn Equinox observation, maybe you'd like to write some things you'd like to do away with on pieces of paper or on leaves (or paper leaves, whatever) that you toss into your fire. I know, that's a lot of paper leaves…

Stock Up on What You Do Need

Take stock of your supplies and be ready for winter emergencies. Do you have enough working flashlights and batteries? Enough food for a couple days, in case it becomes too dangerous to drive?

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