March Equinox’ Importance in Culture
In many cultures, the March Equinox marks a time of transition and new beginnings. It’s the Vernal (Spring) Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, while in the Southern Hemisphere it’s the Autumnal (Fall) Equinox.
Monday is the International Day of Happiness and the first day of spring. So smile, because winter is officially over, even if it doesn’t feel like it in some areas.
Image source: Andy Lockhart
The United Nations established International Day of Happiness to “recognize the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world.” Celebrations have been held on March 20 each year since 2013.
The March equinox signals the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. It marks that special moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator going from south to north. In 2017, this equinox arrives on March 20 at 10:29 UTC.
Image source: Public domain
In the UK, that means the daffodils are blooming, blossom is on the trees, Easter is coming, and lambing season will soon be getting underway.
In the Northern Hemisphere know about this equinox: Sunrise is earlier now, and nightfall comes later. Plants are sprouting. Winds are softening. In the Northern Hemisphere, people are enjoying the warmer days of spring. Meanwhile, south of the equator, autumn begins.
Image source: UN Multimedia
This year, the UN is using the Smurfs to promote its 17 sustainable development goals on the International Day of Happiness. Because nothing says “happy” like cartoons that were popular in the 1980s.
Self-described happiness expert Dr. Geoffrey Soloway (completed a Master’s in Education and PhD on Mindfulness at the University of Toronto, Canada) says people can learn to be happier by focusing on the moment and relishing their positive experiences.
Dr. Geoffrey Soloway Image source: LinkIn
“We can train ourselves to be more mindful, more present in the moment,” Soloway told CTV News Channel on Monday. “When we do that we can actually notice positive experiences when they’re happening, because often we miss them.”
Soloway, whose MindWell U organization offers online training in mindfulness, said there are three ways to become happier:
- Notice positive experiences and happy moments, no matter how small;
- explore the positive experiences once you notice them; and
- linger in the positive experiences so that they fully register.
“You need to notice these positive moments that are always happening,” Soloway said
Newroz Piroz Be (Kurdistan), Nevruz (Turkey), Nowruz (Iran), Holi (India)
Nowruz is a rich tradition that is celebrated by many different countries and territories, and marks the first day of spring. Nowruz recognizes the rebirth of nature, and despite its Iranian Characteristics, is celebrated by many people throughout the world.
Practiced principally in: Albania, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan as well as Ethnic groups in: Zoroastrians, Sufis, Bahá’ís and the Iranian diaspora. Also observed in Armenia, Bosnia, Caucasus, Crimea, Georgia, India, Kashmir, Macedonia, Pakistan, Serbia, and among Uyghurs and Salars of China.(wikipedia)
Here are some ways people around the world celebrate and observe the March Equinox:
Some Bring Out the Easter Eggs
In addition to being the Spring (Vernal) Equinox in the North and the Fall (Autumnal) Equinox in the South, the date of the March Equinox plays a huge role in calculating the dates for when to celebrate Jewish Passover and Christian Easter.
In many Christian cultures, Easter eggs are synonymous with Easter. Also known as Paschal eggs, these are usually decorated chicken eggs that symbolize fertility and rebirth. Many Easter related events feature the Easter egg as the central theme. Traditional games like egg hunts, where children search for colorful Easter eggs; egg rolling, where eggs are rolled down a hill; and egg dancing, where eggs are laid on the floor and people dance while trying not to damage them, are held all around the world.
Image source: Cap Cana
Others Ring in Their New Year
The Iranian New Year (Nowruz, No-Ruz, No-Rooz or No Ruz) occurs during the time of the March Equinox, in accordance with the Persian astronomical calendar. It has been celebrated for over 3000 years and is rooted in the traditions of Zoroastrianism. No-Ruz celebrations last for about 12 days. Preparations start well in advance and include buying new clothes for family members and thoroughly cleaning homes. Wheat or lentil representing new growth is grown in a flat dish a few days before the New Year and is called Sabzeh (green shoots).
Sabzeh (green shoots) Image source: mamanskitchen
In Japan, People Remember their Ancestors
Image source: Teaching of true buddhism
“Higan” means the “other shore” and refers to dead spirits who reach Nirvana after crossing the river of existence. It celebrates the spiritual move from the world of suffering to the world of enlightenment.
Many Celebrate the Earth
Some organizations schedule Earth Day for March 20, while others set the date for April 22. For some, the holiday is when people from all nations, religions and cultural backgrounds celebrate their similarities: living on Earth. For others, Earth Day is observed to promote the protection the natural environment from pollution and other destructive forces.
Interesting Facts and 5 weird traditions to welcome the Vernal Equinox
Many cultures celebrate spring festivals and holidays around the March equinox, like Easter and Passover.
However, there are also a few more unorthodox celebrations – some of which date back thousands of years.
If you’re looking for a way to mark the occasion, here are five weird traditions to give you inspiration:
1. Balance an egg
Image source: ThoughtCo.com
An ancient Chinese tradition calls for balancing eggs, a symbol of fertility, on the day of the March Equinox for good luck and prosperity.
This ancient custom has given rise to a modern myth. Every year, during the March Equinox people claim that it is the only day of the year when an egg can be perfectly balanced on its end. A version of the claim suggests that eggs can only be balanced on their end at the exact time of the Equinox. The truth is that there is nothing magical about the Equinox or the time it occurs – you can balance an egg perfectly on its end on any other day as well.
2. Throw some colored powder
Image source: news 18.com
Holi is an ancient Hindu festival celebrating the victory of good over evil. It takes place each year around the time of the vernal equinox.
Known as the “festival of colours”, it is celebrated by tossing vibrant coloured powders onto each other and dancing in the streets.
This year, Holi starts on Sunday, March 12, but if you’ve got some leftover powder, why not save it to brighten up your day on the 20th?
3. Wear a shamrock
Image source: wikimedia commons
The symbolic plant of the equinox in Druidry is the trefoil or shamrock, which is also customarily worn on St. Patrick’s Day.
The three leaves shaped like hearts were associated with the Triple Goddess of Celtic mythology, otherwise known as the “Three Morgans”
The shamrock is thought to be symbolic of the regenerative powers of nature.
4. Plant seeds
Image source: bustle
The spring equinox is symbolic of rebirth, renewal, and growth, and in ancient Italy, it was traditional for women to plant seeds in the gardens of Adonis on this day.
The custom persists in Sicily, where women plant seeds of grains – lentils, fennel, lettuce or flowers – in baskets and pots.
When they sprout, the stalks are tied with red ribbons and the flowers are placed on graves on Good Friday, symbolising the triumph of life over death.
5. Visit an ancient monument
Image source: Aminas Travel
Many of the world’s ancient monuments were built as astrological calendars, to map the movement of the Sun over the course of the year.
The equinox is therefore a great time to visit these monuments, as they are often aligned to make the most of the Sun’s unique position in the sky.
At Stonehenge in Wiltshire, the sun can be seen rising precisely between two stones, while at Chichén Itzá in Mexico, the rising sun transforms one edge of the giant pyramid into a blazing serpent, representing the Mayan god Kukulcan.
Google is celebrating the spring equinox 2017 with one of its animated doodles
The doodle shows a mouse waking up from hibernation in its underground burrow, and rushing outside to pick a daffodil to put in a jar.
In the southern hemisphere, where March 21, 2017 marks the first day of autumn, Google’s doodle shows the mouse wearing a scarf, and hopping through fallen leaves to get back to its burrow.
When it gets inside, it hops up on a cotton bobbin and takes a drink from a steaming cup of tea.
Interesting facts about the vernal equinox
A guide to what the spring equinox means and how you can make the most of it.
Why does the Vernal Equinox happen?
The equinox occurs because of the tilt of the Earth in relation to the Sun. This is what causes the seasons.
The Earth’s tilt is 23.5 degrees relative to the plane of its orbit and means that, although one revolution of the planet takes 24 hours, it’s different depending on the time of year.
During the summer time, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun, so we can get longer days as more light falls on this part of the planet.
In the winter time it’s the Southern Hemisphere that gets the majority of the light.
Image source: Mirror.co.uk
When did spring start then?
The astronomical spring in the Northern Hemisphere began on Monday, March 20 and will end on Wednesday, June 21.
The spring (vernal) equinox in the Northern Hemisphere is also known as the March equinox. It’s called the “autumnal (fall) equinox” in the Southern Hemisphere.
The March equinox marks the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator – from south to north. This happens on March 19, 20 or 21 every year.
FIRST DAY OF SPRING?
In the Northern Hemisphere, the Vernal (Spring) Equinox marks the first day of astronomical spring. There’s also another, more common definition of when the seasons start, namely meteorological definitions, which are based on average temperatures rather that astronomical events.
DOES IT FALL ON THE SAME DAY EACH YEAR?
No, the vernal equinox moves. It was on March 20th last year and this year, but it can also occur on March 19 or March 21st.
The date varies due to a calendar problem. The Gregorian calendar has 365 days per year, but it actually takes our planet a little longer to orbit the sun. That little extra 0.256 days to go around the sun is what throws off the vernal equinox from one specific date, according to the Huffington Post.
IS IT SPRING EVERYWHERE?
Southern Hemisphere are marking the first day of autumn today. There’s actually a movement to start calling this event the March Equinox or Northward Equinox to “avoid North Hemisphere bias.” because it is only spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
Spring Equinox – Vernal Equinox
The Vernal (Spring) Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere is the Autumnal (Fall) Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere and vice versa.
Vernal Equinox – Northern Hemisphere
(USA, Central America, Canada, Europe, Asia, northern Africa)
March Equinox in London, England, United Kingdom was on
Monday, 20 March 2017, 10:29 GMT (Change city)
March Equinox in Universal Coordinated Time was on
Monday, 20 March 2017, 10:29 UTC
Vernal Equinox – Southern Hemisphere
(Australia, New Zealand, South America, southern Africa)
September Equinox in London, England, United Kingdom is on
Friday, 22 September 2017, 21:02 BST (Change city)
September Equinox in Universal Coordinated Time is on
Friday, 22 September 2017, 20:02 UTC
Why is it called the spring ‘equinox’?
An equinox is the moment in which the plane of Earth‘s equator passes through the center of the Sun, which occurs twice each year, around 20 March and 23 September.
On an equinox, day and night are of approximately equal duration all over the planet. They are not exactly equal, however, due to the angular size of the sun and atmospheric refraction. To avoid this ambiguity, the word equilux is sometimes used to mean a day in which the durations of light and darkness are equal
Since night and day are nearly exactly, the same length – 12 hours – all over the world the event is called the equinox, which in Latin, literally means ‘equal night’ (equi – equal, and nox – night).
Image source: pinterest
In reality though, equinoxes do not have exactly 12 hours of daylight. Solstices and equinoxes mark key stages in the astronomical cycle of the earth. In a year there are two equinoxes (spring and autumn) and two solstices (summer and winter).
The dates of the equinoxes and solstices aren’t fixed due to the Earth’s elliptical orbit of the sun. The Earth’s orbit around the sun means that in early January, the sun is closest (known as perihelion) and in early July it is most distant (aphelion).
We use the equinox to mark the change of seasons, as the balance of light shifts to make for longer days or nights. It usually means that it’s time to hunker down for colder seasons, or time to rise and shine for warmer ones.
You may also notice that on the equinox, the sun rises directly in the east and sets directly in the west, whereas at other times in the year, it appears off-centre if you’re facing those directions.
What happens on an equinox?
Image source: pinterest
The Earth’s axis always tilts at an angle of about 23.5° in relation to the ecliptic, i.e the imaginary plane created by the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. On any other day of the year, either the Northern Hemisphere or the Southern Hemisphere tilts a little towards the Sun but on the two equinoxes, the tilt of the Earth’s axis is perpendicular to the Sun’s rays.
The equinox happens at exactly the same time around the world
Image source: chicagonow.com
The equinox occurs at the exact moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s Equator – from south to north. At this moment, the Earth’s axis is neither tilted away from nor towards the Sun. In 2017, this happens at 10.20am UTC (GMT).