On Tuesday, the plane of the Earth’s equator passed through the centre of the Sun’s disk. In other words, this heralded the coming of Spring in the northern hemisphere and autumn in the southern hemisphere. This movement occurs twice a year, in March and September and on these days, it is said the day and night are of equal lengths. During the rest of the year, either day or night lasts a little longer, depending on where you are in the world, because of the Earth’s tilt and this is why it starts getting darker earlier as winter progresses. Living almost on the equator, for us, almost all days are like the equinox and most days we have roughly 12 hours of light, followed by 12 hours of dark.
But the spring equinox or as it’s called in Latin, the Vernal Equinox in the northern hemisphere, traditionally marks the start of spring in many cultures. It’s the time to throw off the covers of winter and look forward to the sun and the green of spring and summer, a time for new beginnings, births and a fresh new start at life.
A number of festivals take place around this time all over the world, dating back to ancient times. Ancient Christianity links the celebration with Easter when Jesus is believed to have died and then been reborn. The link with the vernal equinox is clear as it coincided with pagan celebrations of rebirth and renewal. The Mayan calendar is famed for its spring equinox rituals at the stone-stepped pyramid at Chichen Itza, Mexico. The pyramid, where human sacrifices once took place, is made in a way that a “snake of sunlight” moves down the steps on the day of the equinox.
In Spain, the time around the start of spring has traditionally been the planting season as the ground thaws and the daylight hours become longer so crops can grow. Japan celebrates both equinoxes with national holidays, as the days are seen as a time to worship ancestors.
Indians celebrate the advent of spring with the festival of colours, Holi which signifies good triumphing over evil by the throwing of colour and coloured water over each other.
In Iran, the New Year begins on the day of the equinox and is marked with the festival of Nowruz. The Parsi community has also brought over this festival with them and I did see messages in my school Whatsapp group chat wishing each other Happy Navroz (I went to a school which is operated by a Parsi trust and there were a good significant portion of Parsis in our school, I’ve written in detail about my alma mater previously).
Ireland celebrates St. Patricks Day in the middle of March each year, which is also a spring festival.
Other countries also celebrate the coming of spring in various ways and it’s quite fascinating to read how different we are, yet beneath all the differences we have (of race, language, religion and culture), we are all intrinsically the same! Food for thought right?
I’m going to leave you with these amazing videos and photos I found online. The first is a photo released by the American National Weather Service which showed how the earth looks like on the first day of Spring.
The short video below is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who celebrated the start to spring in the Northern Hemisphere with a stunning view of Earth from sunset to sunrise.