Autumnal Equinox Traditions

Przemyslaw "Blueshade" Idzkiewicz
Przemyslaw "Blueshade" Idzkiewicz

Today is the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, the point after which the nights become longer than the days, as the North Pole tilts away from the sun. We commonly know it as the first day of fall, although we’ve said goodbye to summer already in the rites of Labor Day and the beginning of the school year. We’ve told you about the traditions and celebrations surrounding the vernal equinox in the spring, and yes, there are traditions for its opposite— although not as many. While the beginning of spring is a joyous occasion, the waning of warm weather is a bit melancholy.

In pagan mythology, the equinox is called Mabon, or Second Harvest. It is a time to give thanks for the summer and to pay tribute to the coming darkness. It is also a time of preparing for Samhain (October 31–November 1), the bigger pagan festival that begins winter. Some Wiccan rituals for Mabon include building an altar with harvest fruits and vegetables, meditating on balance, gathering and feasting on apples, offering apples to the goddess, sharing food, and counting one’s blessings.

Photograph by Flickr user Lazaro Lazo.

Japan marks the equinoxes—both of them—with a period called Ohigan (sometimes spelled O-higan). The Japanese Buddhist belief is that the land of the afterlife is due west, and during the equinoxes, the sun sets directly west. The equinoxes are also symbolic of the transitions of life. The week around each equinox is Ohigan, a time to visit the graves of one's ancestors, to spruce up the grave sites, and to leave flowers. It is also a time of meditation and to visit living relatives.

Photograph by Shizhao.

China and Vietnam celebrate the Moon Festival, or Mid-Autumn Festival, which is on the full moon nearest to the equinox. On a lunar calendar, that is the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. It is celebrated with the usual festival activities, plus gazing at the moon and eating moon cakes. In the southern U.S., Moon Pies are often used in place of moon cakes. A similar holiday in Korea is called Chuseok

Photograph by Flickr user Matthew Hoelscher.

Michaelmas is the Catholic feast of the Archangel Michael. Some traditions use this feast day to celebrate other archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael as the Feast of the Angels. The feast day is September 29, which is celebrated as the beginning of fall in some places. It is thought that the feast was set near the autumn equinox to draw the faithful away from pagan celebrations, as are several other Christian holidays. Traditions include gathering and eating nuts (which began on Holy Rood Day on September 14), and eating a fattened goose, if you could afford that luxury. In centuries past in England, it was a time of transitions, as servants were paid their wages after the harvest, and workers scrambled to find new employment contracts. The employment fairs that facilitated this custom became an opportunity for community celebration. It is also a good time to eat blackberries, as “Old Michaelmas Day" (October 10th) is traditionally the cutoff time for picking blackberries.

Photograph by Flickr user Government Press Office.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year holiday, is 163 days after the first day of Passover. The date of Passover is set to begin the night of the full moon after the vernal equinox, so Rosh Hashanah has only a tangental relationship with the equinox.

Photograph by Flickr user Stonehenge Stone Circle.

Neo-Druids gather at Stonehenge to watch the equinox sunrise. This happens every year, both in spring and fall. As with other pagan groups, the equinox is a time for Druids to offer thanks for a bountiful harvest and prepare for the darkness of winter.

Photograph by Flickr user Stonehenge Stone Circle.

In the West, celebrations surrounding the fall equinox are less about the equinox itself and more about the activities of fall. We have county fairs and festivals, which are scheduled around school calendars and to maximize tourism. We celebrate Halloween all out of proportion to its historic roots, because it’s fun. We decorate with fall colors and harvest fruits for months at a time, and we split our holidays, celebrating the end of summer with Labor Day and giving thanks for a bountiful harvest on Thanksgiving. Together, those are all celebrations of fall.

Photograph by Flickr user Valerie Everett.

In the Southern Hemisphere, today is the first day of spring, which is a whole other holiday.

See also: How Did the Seasons Get Their Names?

13 Times Animals Interrupted News Reports

iStock.com/Tashi-Delek
iStock.com/Tashi-Delek

Live news broadcasts can be a gold mine for humor, especially when an animal is involved. Animals really don’t care a bit that you’re broadcasting live to an audience, and the chaos they can cause once that red light is on is simply hilarious. Luckily for us, these broadcasts can live on forever on the internet, especially once they find their way to YouTube. Here are 13 examples of what can happen when an animal goes rogue during live news.

1. A Pelican Attack

Steve Jacobs, from the Australian show TODAY, was broadcasting live from Taronga Zoo in Sydney for an extended segment in 2010. He still had to report on the weather forecast from the remote location, but didn’t get far into it before a pelican bit him on the behind. There’s no way to keep a straight face when that happens.

2. A Jumping Cat

Nicole DiDonato of WXMI was doing a live news tease in July of 2012 when an intrepid cat jumped up on her shoulders. When DiDonato returned to do the full report, the cat was still there and still trying to take her attention away from her job.

3. A Weather Cat

Cats pay no mind whatsoever to conventions like keeping a studio floor clear during a live broadcast. Univision’s Eduardo Rodriguez was presenting a weather report at WLTV in Miami in 2012 when a cat sashayed across the studio floor. Rodriguez kept his composure and finished his report as the crew cracked up in the background.

4. A Persistent Kitten

At WXYZ in Detroit, a stray kitten decided she wanted to get to know reporter Nima Shaffe just a little bit better. The fact that he was on location for a news report made no difference, and the kitten wouldn’t take "no" for an answer. The station went with it and made the report about the kitten. The local Humane Society took the kitten in and planned to put her up for adoption.

5. Horsing Around

A reporter from Macedonia TV tried his best to deliver a story on equestrian training, but a horse named Frankie couldn’t contain his curiosity and affection. It makes perfect sense to put a horse in the background for such a report, but this one wasn’t good at following stage directions. You can see the clip here.

6. A Donkey With Something to Say

This interview from a Russian news channel was placed right in front of a donkey enclosure, which, as you'll see, is never a good idea for a coherent broadcast. The lone donkey in the shot was not going to stand idly by when he had the opportunity to address the audience. We’re not sure what he said, but he came off like a real jackass.

7. Cougar or Dog?

One early morning in October 2018, reporter Morgan Saxton was shooting a live segment in Utah's Spring Lake when a mysterious creature interrupted the shot. "What you’re seeing is—actually a dog coming into our live shot,” she said nervously. “I think it’s a dog, I’m not sure. Anyway, there’s some sort of creature below me.” Saxton later shared the segment on Twitter, asking what animal her followers thought it was. Some went feline, saying it was a mountain lion; others, however, said it was a dog. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources ultimately determined, based on the animal's tracks, that it was indeed a pupper.

8. A Dog Crashes the Weather Report

Meteorologist Ryan Phillips was delivering the weather report at NBC 6 in Miami in January of 2015. Meanwhile, the broadcast crew was preparing for the upcoming “Pet of the Week” segment, featuring a pet from a local animal shelter, Pooches in Pines. King, an American bulldog, couldn’t wait for his turn in front of the camera and decided to jump up on the news desk to get some extra attention from the weather man. King was soon adopted by his foster family.

9. A Dog on a Lawnmower

This past March, Andrea Martinez of KYTX CBS1 9 News was reporting on storm damage in Malakoff, Texas, when a dog on a lawn mower distracted everyone. The dog wasn’t trying to interrupt, but once Martinez saw him, the news crew had to take a closer look. Needless to say, more people saw the dog than would ever see the storm report.

10. Griffey the Weather Dog

In early 2015, meteorologist John Zeigler was doing his report at KOLR 10 in Springfield, Missouri, when his dog Griffey decided it was time to play! Zeigler distracted the dog by tossing a ball, but Griffey knows how to play fetch, so it was a constant struggle to keep the dog off-camera. However, Griffey was such a hit that he became the station’s mascot, complete with legions of fans and his own Facebook page.

11. A Spider Terrorizing a Meteorologist

You are familiar with the way broadcast news blends various graphics into the background of weather reports. Broadcasters get used to responding to what’s on the air instead of what’s physically in front of them. That response went haywire when a spider landed on the camera lens as Global BC meteorologist Kristi Gordon was giving the weather forecast. She couldn’t help but respond as if the spider were right there with her.

12. A Space Spider

That wasn’t the first time a spider on a camera lens caused laughter on the air. In 2007, as NASA prepared to launch the space shuttle Atlantis on the oft-delayed mission STS-122, they had a constant video feed on the launch pad. When this segment made YouTube, it came with an announcement:

STS-122 The space shuttle Atlantis will not launch until the new year.
A fuel tank glitch forced mission controllers to delay the launch.
And, fuel sensors weren't the only problem.
The shuttle was also attacked by a giant spider.

But what was even better was what happened when WRDW News 12 reported on the NASA spider. Here’s Meredith Anderson and Tim Strong.

Sure, that was a prank, but the video went viral.

13. A Trouser Snake

When KCCI meteorologist Kurtis Gertz did a live report from the Iowa State Fair in 2008, he volunteered to appear in a snake show. A huge Burmese python named Dawn slithered her tail up into the leg of Gertz’s cargo shorts and out the other leg! It took some time to extract her, and even longer for everyone to stop laughing. The video became a classic.

This story was updated in 2019.

10 Creative Ways to Prepare a Turkey

A spatchcocked turkey on a grill.
A spatchcocked turkey on a grill.
iStock.com/pr2is

The typical method for preparing a turkey is to put the bird in a hot oven and wait until it's done—perfectly acceptable, if a little basic. Have a more adventurous Thanksgiving this year by trying one of these out-of-the-box recipes.

1. MOLE-ROASTED TURKEY

To create this delicious bird, Epicurious recommends marinating the turkey in mole overnight; at minimum, you'll need to coat the inside and the outside of the turkey with the sauce and let it sit in the fridge for an hour before cooking. The chocolate sauce makes for one moist turkey; serve with Masa stuffing and spicy chili gravy on the side.

2. BEER CAN TURKEY

Beer can turkey is a variation on beer can chicken, in which a chicken is propped up over an open can of beer that bastes the bird from the inside. For a turkey, you'll need to find two 24-ounce cans of beer—one for the interior basting, and one for the dripping pan and for basting the outside of the bird—and spices to season. Cooking can be done either in an oven or on the grill; either way, consider purchasing a special rack to help keep the bird upright while it's roasting. Step-by-step instructions can be found at The Chew.

3. SPATCHCOCKED TURKEY

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats calls spatchcocking "a method for lazy folks with great taste," but it's also a great technique if you're short on time. The method—which allows a turkey to cook faster and more evenly—requires removing the bird's spine, turning it over, and pressing hard to splay it out flat before popping it in the oven. You can find step-by-step instructions here.

4. 100-PROOF TURKEY

If you're serious about adding alcohol to your turkey, you can emulate New York tavern PD O’Hurley’s by injecting your turkey with vodka. The recipe calls for the turkey to be marinated overnight in four flavors of vodka, and a vodka injection is done after cooking to retain the alcohol content.

5. BACON-WRAPPED TURKEY

There's an easy way to make every food better: Add bacon. A turkey is no exception; when placed on top of a turkey, the bacon grease melts and flavors the bird's skin. This recipe combines the flavors of bacon and maple syrup to create one delicious dish. To take the turkey to the next level, check out this recipe, which requires weaving a bacon jacket for your bird.

6. BRAISED TURKEY

To braise a turkey, you first cook it in the oven, let it rest, then slice it and remove the legs and wings, and cook the meat in broth. It won't look like a traditional Thanksgiving turkey for the presentation, but it will taste delicious. Bobby Flay has a recipe for herb-roasted and braised turkey.

7. SOUS-VIDE TURKEY

Sous-vide is a method for cooking meat that involves encasing meat in a plastic bag and placing it in hot water to cook over a long period of time. Serious Eats has step-by-step instructions for making sous-vide turkey (with crispy skin cooked separately). Before getting down to sous-videing, you'll need to remove the wings and legs from the bird, then cut the breast meat from the bone; next, place one half of the breast meat cut side up, and place the other half on top of it, cut side down, and tie into a cylinder, which is what you'll place into a plastic bag and immerse in a hot water bath for cooking.

8. PUMPKIN SPICE TURKEY

Pumpkin spice is the ultimate fall flavor—and by following this recipe, you can even have a pumpkin spice-flavored bird. Create one-quarter of a cup of rub with cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg, then add brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Coat the thawed bird with canola oil, then rub in the spice; allow it to sit in the fridge overnight, then cook as usual.

9. TURDUNKIN'

Sure, you could make a Turducken—a turkey stuffed with a duck that is stuffed with a chicken—but it's a complicated dish, since all the birds have to be deboned ahead of time. Those who love both Thanksgiving and Dunkin' Donuts should try the Turdunkin', which is "a turkey brined in Dunkin' Donuts coolattas, stuffed with munchkins and served with coffee gravy and mashed hash browns." Yes, it definitely sounds disgusting, but according to one of its creators, "The turDunkin’ was largely delicious" if "a bit too salty ... The coolatta only penetrated the outer reaches of the white meat, but it was delicious and subtle in those places. ... I was very happy with the turkey, the glaze and sprinkles, and the stuffing." You can find step-by-step instructions at Unwholesome Foods.

10. WHITE CASTLE-STUFFED TURKEY

Cook the turkey as you normally would, but replace the stuffing with White Castle sliders (sans pickles). You can find the recipe on White Castle's website, which notes that chefs should "allow 1 Slider for each pound of turkey, which will be equal to 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound."

This piece originally ran in 2016.

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