Today is the midpoint of autumn, halfway between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. For years now, I’ve felt called to celebrate this date rather than October 31, but feeling connected to a date and knowing how to commemorate it are two different things. One simple thing, though, was figuring out what to call it. I’d been calling it astronomical Samhain, but that’s mostly been confusing. Starting this year, I’ve decided to follow the practice of some humanistic/naturalistic Pagans and call it Autumn Cross-Quarter. If it doesn’t lend itself to quick wishes—I don’t expect to see “Happy Autumn Cross-Quarter!” on greeting cards anytime soon—at least you know it has something to do with the season.
Ever since I learned that the shift from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar meant that the traditional dates for the cross-quarters no longer fall on the midpoints of the seasons, I’ve felt slightly “off” celebrating them then. Still, I tried. Samhain is big enough that there is a real feeling of community on that date, and there’s power in that. But I’ve drifted away from public rituals over the years, I don’t belong to a coven or similar group, and generally the only celebration of any holiday I have now is the one I do on my own. So it’s made more sense to celebrate the one where my heart is. Which is today, not a week ago.
I’ve been noticing more Pagan observation of November 7 in recent years (or November 6: like the solstices and equinoxes, the cross-quarters vary a bit in their dates). Sometimes it’s called Samhain, sometimes Autumn Cross-Quarter. Maybe it’s a desire to be more accurate date-wise, but I suspect there are other reasons. After all, if you celebrate Samhain on November 7, you can join our culture in celebrating Halloween on October 31 and not have nearly the schedule conflicts you might otherwise.
An accurate date isn’t the only reason I’m focusing more on the Autumn Cross-Quarter. Samhain is about remembering the dead and honoring the ancestors, and I want to keep that in my Autumn Cross-Quarter celebration. But these holidays also highlight when we are in the year, and I’m drawn more to that aspect: what does it mean to be halfway through autumn? Around here, our glorious fall color has faded as the winds have finally brought down the bulk of the leaves. The temperatures are dropping into sweater weather. It gets darker earlier now that we’ve gone off Daylight Saving Time, which just feels right, even if it’s putting a damper on my evening activities (like the colder weather wouldn’t have?). It’s time to prepare traditional foods, light a candle in the growing darkness, and settle in (at least psychologically) for the year.