When is the Vernal Equinox?
The Vernal Equinox marks the official start of spring. Also called the March Equinox, this equinox is characterized by the sun lining up with the equator. It is a welcome event by many people looking forward to defrosting from wintry conditions, although the warming trend can happen before or after the official day of the equinox.
What is an Equinox?
An equinox is the scientific term to explain the moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator. The earth’s equator is essentially lined up against the middle of the sun. Unlike the tilting of the earth that results in the cold weather conditions and shorter days associated with winter, the planet doesn’t tilt at all during the equinox. During the day of an equinox, Earth also experiences relatively equal lengths of sunlight and nighttime. In other words, there are about 12 hours of day, and 12 hours of night.
There are only two equinoxes per year. The first is the Vernal Equinox, which happens near the end of every March. The exact date changes year to year, but falls between March 20th and the 24th. This equinox marks the change from winter. The second one is the September (or Autumnal) Equinox, and marks the beginning of fall.
Signs of Spring
People in the northern hemisphere look forward to the Vernal Equinox as a welcome sign of the change of seasons. This equinox marks the transition from winter to spring, where many individuals are aching to break out of cold weather and short days. The biggest noticeable difference on the day of the Vernal Equinox is an extension in daylight. However, other signs of spring can occur slightly before or after the equinox. This is largely based on other factors in weather patterns on Earth. It is not out of the realm of possibility to experience a snowstorm after the Vernal Equinox. Keep in mind that seasonal changes from the March Equinox have the opposite effect in the southern hemisphere.
For some people, the Vernal Equinox marks an annual change in seasons, and they simply adapt to the transition. For others, however, this equinox marks a time for celebration. Historically, the Mayans were among the first to take the equinoxes as well as the solstices seriously. The days were of significant cultural importance, and some of the villages would even make sacrifices. Rituals and festivals were also held in ancient Egypt and Iran. It was even historically regarded a pagan holiday in parts of Europe.
Major spring holidays also occur around the time of the Vernal Equinox. This includes major religious holidays, such as Easter in Christianity and Passover in Judaism. St. Patrick’s Day, which occurs every March 17th, is also relatively close the March equinox.
There are other cultural rituals connected to the Vernal Equinox that don’t have the same historical context as holidays. After spring begins, many households commence their own traditions related to the equinox, though they may not realize it. This may include the infamous “spring cleaning,” gardening or even structural painting. Spring also marks the time when winter tools and clothing are put away. Others simply get outside and plan activities that were put on hold until winter thawed away.
Sid Dickens - Equinox