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Snow White, Apples and the Fall Equinox

Little Snow-White was conceived in Midwinter when her mother wished for a child who had skin as white as snow and hair as black as ebony, which would put her birth right around the Autumnal Equinox where day and night—white and black—approach balance.

Autumn, of course, is the season between summer and winter, but we didn’t always have a set word for it in English. Spring and autumn went through quite a few name changes over the centuries at the whims of agricultural and linguistic influences. Some of the earlier instances include “lent and harvest-tide” and “spring of the leaf and fall of the leaf”.

Though the British overwhelmingly prefer autumn to the American-favored fall, HW Fowler, that arbiter of all that is English, begrudgingly admitted back in 1908 that “Fall is better on the merits than autumn, in every way: it is short, Saxon (like the other three season names), picturesque; it reveals its derivation to every one who uses it, not to the scholar only“. Fall is not only a more literal and easily understood term when compared with the Latin-derived autumn, but it’s just so beautiful, you know?

And what better way to celebrate that beauty than like Snow White herself with glistening apples with blood-red cheeks? Personally I think there’s no better way to begin the fall than with the eating of an apple, and there’s an abundance of apple options available for autumn—hard cider, mulled cider, boiled cider, switchel—but as it happens, ol’ Johnny Appleseed (whose birthday is September 26th) would probably prefer you consume the hard stuff.

You see, most eating apples are grown from trees produced from grafting (that is, splicing two trees together), but the real-life John Chapman thought this practice was cruel and traumatic to the trees, so when he donned his tin pot and set out to spread his seed across the American frontier, he began his orchards from seedlings which typically produces a hardier stock of sour, bitter apples only suitable for cider.

Of course, some people feel that Johnny Appleseed was nothing more than an eco-terrorist who introduced an invasive species to the New World. Well, alright then…how about rather than celebrating the apple, you could celebrate the fall as the Chinese do with the Mid-Autumn Festival which pays tribute to the Moon (rather than the Sun as the equinoxes do). During the Mid-Autumn Festival, it is traditional to munch on tasty little mooncakes which are tributes to the moon goddess, Chang’e.

However you choose to celebrate this September—Sun or Moon, apple or mooncake, fall or autumn—one question remains: What the f*** does ba-dee-ya mean?