This afternoon we went and visited the beautiful upgraded Waitangi Estuary Regional Park near Awatoto. The park which in the past has seen illegal rubbish dumped, vehicles driving all over the place, has now been replanted, has designated parking and walking tracks that will be completed at different stages. What I personally find special about this park is it now has a celestial compass and four Pou depicting north, east, south and west. The celestial compass was important for early navigation, and knowing where the stars would rise and set along with watching the large ocean swells you could navigate our seas. Stars were also used to announce the Autumn harvest and in New Zealand, Autumn is the time when the Kumara crops are harvested. It seemed rather poignant that our impromptu visit today was on the first day of the Autumn Equinox, and earlier today I started writing this post.
Autumn is one of my favorite seasons and having grown up on a farm when I was young, I was able to experience the changes in the seasons, through the work that was done, the look and feel of the land and the vegetable and fruits that were grown and picked.
In Hawkes Bay, we are lucky to have very distinctive seasons. For me, it’s important that my children get to experience this as I did as a child but is now much harder since we live in town and that we celebrate Northern Hemisphere holidays at the wrong time of year.
A few years ago, I purchased a book Celebrating the Southern Seasons, Rituals for Aotearoa by Juliet Batten. Along with outlining Maori customs and ceremonies, it talks about Pagan and Christian celebrations, which is where many of our commercial holiday celebrations originated from and why celebrations are back to front for us, they originated from the Northern Hemisphere. This book is wonderful for anyone who wants to celebrate our Southern Hemisphere seasonal festivals and festivals that are unique to New Zealand.
Autumn Equinox is the time of harvest, this is the time of year that food is abundant. We harvest our late Autumn berries and stone fruits, grapes, apples, figs and Kumara are some of the fruit and vegetables that are plentiful now. When out walking you will notice pine cones dropping, chestnuts and rosehips. You will see (Harakeke) flax seed heads bursting and hear Bellbird calling. It’s quite a magical time of year and one that children can easily be a part of.
The easiest way to experience Autumn is getting outside, below I have listed a few activities that you could do with your children to experience Autumn.
- Collect pinecones for winter fires
- Jump, run, hide and play in piles of leaves
- Picking Mushrooms
- Make walnut shell boats and sail them in creeks or puddles or the bath
- Make a pinecone bird feeder
- Collect leaves and Autumn treasures to make an Autumn centrepiece
- When out walking talk about how the trees change colour and have a life cycle
- Read stories that talk about the Autumn Harvest (The Cicada and the Ant)
- Visit pick your own orchards
- Carve out a pumpkin
- Bake an apple or Feijoa crumble
- Plant Spring bulbs
- Blow bubbles onto dew on the grass (the bubbles stay for longer and the kids can run and jump through them).
- If you live in Napier – visit the Celestial Compass at Waitangi Regional Park
There are many more adventures you can have with you children to get out and explore our Autumn days. Collecting treasures and displaying them and also baking and cooking season fruits and vegetables is a great way to bring Autumn inside. I will continue to share our Autumn adventures on Facebook and Instagram and let me know if you have any special rituals that you do in Autumn.