HERNDON, VA — Perhaps you’ve seen the meme on social media about when the fall begins. The 2020 punch line: “I thought you were talking was about the fall of civilization until I realized you meant autumn.”
Fall is coming in Herndon, and even in the middle of a pandemic, there are plenty of things you can do to celebrate the season, which begins on Tuesday, Sept. 22.
The fall equinox officially ushers in the new season and its promise of crisp air, show-stopping leaf displays, and cool evenings just perfect for sitting around a fire pit and spinning stories about previous fall days spent at football stadiums and fall festivals.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot of our fall rituals. Football season is underway for professional teams and many colleges, but many of the stadiums are empty. “Friday night lights” — the moniker that’s been given to high school football games — are still shining, but social distancing requirements are quieting the roar from the stands in many communities
Still, fall is approaching, and no one wants to miss a chance to play in the sunshine before the cold of winter creeps in — the winter solstice is Monday, Dec. 21, if you’re keeping track on the calendar.
Until then, here are some fall activities in Herndon:
Homecoming Parade: Saturday in October, 24. Last year's event included 66 units and more than 1,500 participants who marched in the cool fall weather.
Herndon WinterMarkt: will be returning for the 2020 season, although in a slightly different format. MarketPlatz is a virtual platform that will offer handcrafted wares, German goods, holiday decorations, European delicacies, artwork and other seasonal fare. On Dec. 12-13, the community will be able to take part in WinterPlatz, a cluster of mini celebrations throughout the town.
Turkey Trot 5K Race: Runners and walkers are encouraged to conquer the 5K trail course as a way to burn off some of those Thanksgiving calories. (Updated Sept. 18: This event has been canceled.)
Holiday Arts and Crafts Show: More than 90 artisans and craftspeople will be exciting their wares at this annual event sponsored bylaws the Town of Herndon Department of Parks and Recreation. (Updated Sept. 18: This event has been canceled.)
The autumnal equinox isn’t a daylong event but rather occurs at the exact moment the sun crosses the celestial equator — that’s at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.
We’re also coming up on the end of Daylight Saving Time, which officially ends on Sunday, Nov. 1, but that’s a while off. Yes, darkness will fall earlier in the evening. But that also means you won’t have to stay up all night to see a half-dozen fall and winter meteor showers.
The word equinox comes from the Latin words “aequus,” which means “equal,” and “nox,” which means night. That’s led to the perception that everyone worldwide sees the same amount of daylight and nighttime, but it’s not the absolute truth. To be precise, daylight lasts about eight minutes longer than nighttime on the day of the equinox.
Here are five other things to know about the September equinox:
1. There’s no guarantee, of course, but the chances of seeing stunning aurora borealis displays increase after the fall equinox, according to NASA. Both the spring and fall equinoxes are good aurora seasons, but autumn produces a surplus of geomagnetic storms — almost twice the annual average.
2. The date of the September equinox varies. Usually, it’s on the 22nd, as it is this year, or the 23rd, but it can occur as early as Sept. 21 or as late as Sept. 24.
A Sept. 21 autumnal equinox hasn’t occurred in several millennia, but some folks alive today may see it the next couple of times it rolls around, in 2092 and then again four years later in 2096. And the first day of fall hasn’t fallen on Sept. 24 since 1931, and that won’t happen again until 2303.
Here’s the reason: A year is defined as 365 days by the Gregorian calendar, but it takes the Earth 365-¼ days to orbit the sun. What this means is the autumnal equinox occurs about six hours later than it did the year prior, which eventually moves the date by a day.
3. Thank Canada for spectacular fall sunsets with more vivid pinks, reds and oranges than at any other time of the year. The Weather Channel offers an explanation: As dry, clean Canadian air begins to sweep across the country, fewer colors of the rainbow spectrum are scattered by air molecules. That means the reds, oranges, yellows and pinks make it through for your sunset-viewing pleasure.
4. No matter where you are in the world, the sun will rise due east and set due west during the fall equinox (the same thing happens during the spring equinox). For the directionally challenged, it’s a good time for a reset. Go outside around sunset or sunrise, find a landmark and mark the sun’s location in relation to it.
5. Fall isn’t just a time for the human world to start buttoning things up outside. It’s rutting — or mating — season for deer, elk and moose, and males will battle it out by thrusting their antlers together until one of them gives up or dies.
Swans, geese and ducks begin their migration south. Frogs burrow deep into mud holes to wait out the winter. Chipmunks retreat to their underground tunnels. Bears eat and drink almost nonstop as they prepare for hibernation.
And, according to the Mother Nature Network, the male Siberian hamster goes through a huge biological change: Its testicles swell almost 17 times their normal size.