Susan Vaughan here. Happy spring to everyone, although here in Maine true spring won’t show up for a month or more. Nevertheless, March 20, 2019 is the spring, or vernal, equinox in the northern hemisphere. As dawn is the time of new light, the vernal equinox is the start of new life.
It brings days and nights in equal proportions of daylight and nighttime. But did you know this is true only on the equator? For the rest of us, the proportion of daylight to night time varies, depending on where we are on the planet. In some cases, the date varies as well. As a date, the spring equinox has changed. Calendars created by ancient leaders, such as Julius Caesar and Pope Gregory XIII, and ancient peoples, such as the Maya, were imperfect for astronomical reasons. The date would remain the same every year if the earth’s journey around the sun took exactly 365 days, but it doesn’t, the same reason we have a leap year every four years.
The spring equinox has been an important cultural event for thousands of years. The Maya of Central America celebrated it. In what is now Mexico, the celebrated the arrival of spring (and the autumnal equinox as well) at Chichén Itzá. The pyramid of El Castillo (the Castle) was built to honor the god Kukulkán, the feathered serpent. When the sun sets on the day of the equinox, a play of light and shadow creates the appearance of a snake undulating down the pyramid’s staircase. To this day, thousands of people gather to observe this phenomenon, an effect which appears to have been deliberately created by the pyramid’s designers. In this picture, beside my husband and me, are giant snake heads, where the end of the light-and-shadow snake ends. The Maya were master builders and knew the power of mythic belief.
The Anglo-Saxon festival of Ostara celebrated the horned god and the spring maiden, both representing the arrival of spring. Some symbols of this ritual include eggs and rabbits, which spread to a Saxon festival honoring the dawn goddess Oester, from which are derived the words East and Easter. The date of the March equinox plays a major role in calculating the dates for observing the Jewish Passover and Christian Easter.
The ancient Chinese had a tradition for the spring equinox. One balanced eggs, a symbol of fertility, to bring good luck and prosperity. This custom has brought about a modern myth, that the spring equinox is the only day of the year when an egg can be balanced on its end. The truth is that you can balance an egg on any day.
In many traditions, spring equinox is the start of the new year. The Roman year began on the Ides of March, the fifteenth. The astrological year begins then when the moon moves into the first sign of the Zodiac, Aries. The Greek god Ares is equivalent to the Roman god Mars, for whom the month of March is named.
MORE FUN FACTS:
- The spring equinox can occur on March 19, 20, or 21.
- Equinox is Latin for equal nights.
- Fred Rogers was born on March 20, 1928
- Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom’s Cabin on March 20, 1852.
- March 20 is also the International Day of Happiness, adopted by the UN in 2012.
- UN French Language Day is celebrated on March 20. The other five official UN languages are celebrated on other dates.
Thanks to Time and Date [www.timeanddate.com] for some of the above information.