Holidays of Autumn
September 21-24: Autumn EquinoxThe autumnal equinox is the first official day of the autumn season. It's called the "equinox" because daytime and nighttime are of equal length on this date--the same is true of the spring equinox in March.
September 29: MichaelmasMichaelmas is the Christian feast day of St. Michael. Because it falls near the start of autumn, it was traditionally an autumnal and harvest festival in the British isles. Some foods associated with Michaelmas are roast goose, blackberry pie, and a bread made of barley, oats, and rye called St. Michael's bannock.
See Autumn in the Air for more on Michaelmas plus autumnal reading and activities.
October 31: HalloweenHalloween is short for All Hallows' Evening, the name for the evening before All Saints' Day or All Hallows' Day. The traditions of Halloween have their roots in Samhain, a festival in medieval Ireland and Scotland. On Samhain, people went mumming, or dressed in costume and went door to door offering entertainment in exchange for food, and made lanterns of hollow turnips carved with faces to frighten ghosts said to wander on this night. These traditions became our modern customs of trick-or-treat and jack-o'-lanterns.
See Frightful Fun for more on Halloween plus spooky reading and activities.
November 1: All Saints' DayAs the name suggests, this Christian feast day honors all saints. It's also sometimes called All Hallows' Day, making the day before All Hallows' Eve. Eventually this was shortened to "Hallow evening" and then to "Hallowe'en," or Halloween.
November 2: All Souls' DayAll Souls' Day is a Christian companion holiday to All Saints' Day, honoring the souls of those who have passed away. An old tradition of All Souls' Day was to go door to door begging for soul cakes, or small biscuit-like cakes made with spices and dried fruit.
See Frightful Fun for more on All Souls' Day and a recipe for soul cakes.
November 5: Bonfire NightBonfire Night is a British holiday marking the failure of a 1605 plan to destroy Britain's Houses of Parliament. The holiday is also commonly called "Guy Fawkes Night" because a man named Guy Fawkes was famously arrested during the incident. Today the original political focus of the holiday has faded, and Bonfire Night is celebrated as a British public holiday with bonfires, fireworks, and autumnal treats such as toffee apples and gingerbread.
November 11: MartinmasMartinmas is the Christian feast day of St. Martin. In Europe, Martinmas traditionally marked the end of autumn and the beginning of winter, as it was the time when the harvest was finished and livestock were butchered. A feast of these foods was prepared to celebrate, similar to the American November harvest celebration of Thanksgiving.
November 22-28: ThanksgivingThanksgiving is an American harvest celebration falling the fourth Thursday in November. A traditional Thanksgiving meal includes roast turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, and Thanksgiving entertainment customs include parades and football games. Thanksgiving is also commonly considered the start of the holiday season, which reaches its peak at Christmas in December and concludes with New Year's Day in January.
See Feathered Friends for a Thanksgiving story and an article on Presidential Thanksgiving turkey pardons.