March is said to roll in like a lion and out like a lamb. The turning point? Either March 20 or 21, depending on the year. This date marks the vernal or spring equinox — the official first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere (and fall in the Southern Hemisphere).
The Science Behind the Spring Equinox
The spring equinox is one of the two days per year when the amount of daylight and darkness is about equal (the other is the autumnal equinox in September). In fact, the word equinox comes from the Latin “aequus” meaning equal and “nox” meaning night.
An equinox occurs at the moment when the Earth’s axis doesn’t tilt toward or away from the sun, as it typically does throughout the year, so a relatively even amount of sunlight is shed across the planet throughout the day. After the spring equinox, the tilt of Earth’s axis will shift the northern hemisphere closer to the sun, bringing it sunrises and warmer weather to the region.
The Spiritual Significance of the Spring Equinox
With the increased sunlight, blooming flowers, and hatching eggs of spring, we’ve come to associate the season with new life. This joyous sense of rebirth finds root in many ancient civilizations like the Greeks who celebrated the resurrection of their god Dionysus and the Maya who celebrated the resurrection of their Maize God Hyn Hunahpu. In Christianity, the spring equinox is the time of the Passion, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus.
Some civilizations even constructed buildings to memorialize the feeling of renewal. The Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt, for instance, was built so that it aligns with the spring equinox. The same is true for the temple Angkor Wat in Cambodia which also features artwork of Churning of the Ocean of Milk, a story celebrating the triumph of good over evil and light over dark.
Additionally, while most of us celebrate New Year’s Day on January 1st, the spring equinox marks a brand-new year in Western Astrology, as the sun moves into fiery Aries, the first sign of the zodiac. Aries is characterized as a charismatic go-getter, an enthusiastic energy that leads us into the new season with excitement and vigor.
Spring Equinox Traditions
The spring equinox has been celebrated for centuries across many different cultures. Crowds still gather at the ruins of Chichen Itza in the ancient Maya city in Mexico, to watch the afternoon sun create shadows along the stairs of the Pyramid of Kukulkan. The shadows descend down the stairs, moving like a snake, until they align with a large, serpent head sculpture at the base of the pyramid.
Others gather at Stonehenge, the mysterious structure of huge standing stones in England. There, families, travelers, and new age spiritualists gather to watch the sun rise in a celebration thought to originate from druid or pagan civilizations.
Additionally, Nowruz, the Persian New Year, actually begins on the spring equinox and has been celebrated for more than 3,000 years while Higan, a week of Buddhist services in Japan, is celebrated over both equinoxes.
How to Celebrate the Spring Equinox
There are plenty of ways you can ring in spring at home, such as starting Easter traditions off early by coloring eggs, a common symbol of new life. If the weather permits, go outside to plant new flowers or, if it’s still a little chilly, pot a small herb garden in your kitchen. There are plenty of crafty DIYs perfect for spring, as well. Design flower wreaths for your front door or have the kids help color vibrant spring scenes to hang around the house.
You can even add a dash of spring to family dinner by cooking up a vibrant pot of Pasta Primavera which translates into “spring pasta”. This recipe from Life Made Sweeter features fresh spring vegetables and a bright splash of lemon.
Serve your meal on a table decorated with colorful bouquets and add to the joyful ambiance by dining to the violin concerto Spring by composer Antonio Vivaldi.
How do you plan on celebrating spring? Let us know in the comments.