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Spring equinox arrives in the Northern Hemisphere

The arrival of spring in the Northern Hemisphere is officially heralded by the vernal equinox, which occurs on Tuesday, March 19. This event marks a significant point in our annual journey around the sun, characterized by the equal balance of day and night across the globe.

Understanding the spring equinox

The concept of the equinox is rooted in the Earth’s orbital dynamics. As our planet orbits the sun, it does so at a tilt, with the axis not perfectly upright but inclined. This tilt results in varying solar intensity across the globe throughout the year, with the sun shining more directly on either the northern or southern hemisphere, depending on the Earth’s position.

The equinox occurs when the tilt of the Earth’s axis and its orbit around the sun align in such a way that both hemispheres receive an equal amount of sunlight. This equilibrium gives the equinox its name, derived from Latin words meaning “equal night,” signifying the near-equal length of day and night experienced globally during this time.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the vernal (spring) equinox can occur from March 19 to 21, while the autumnal (fall) equinox falls between September 21 and 24, marking the transitions between the seasons.

What are solstices?

Complementing the equinoxes are the solstices, which signify the points in the year when the Earth’s axial tilt is most pronounced towards or away from the sun, resulting in the greatest disparity in daylight hours. 

The summer solstice, occurring between June 20 and 22, celebrates the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere as it tilts towards the sun. Conversely, the winter solstice, between December 20 and 23, marks the shortest day and longest night, as the hemisphere leans away from the sun.

Cultural significance of the spring equinox

The cultural significance of the spring equinox is deeply rooted in ancient traditions, mythology, and modern celebrations worldwide. This celestial event has long been a symbol of rebirth, renewal, and new beginnings, reflecting the awakening of nature from its winter sleep. Here are some key aspects of its cultural significance:

Renewal and rebirth

In many cultures, the spring equinox is associated with the concept of renewal and rebirth. This is often symbolized by the return of fertility to the earth, the blossoming of flowers, and the birth of young animals. It’s a time for cleansing and renewal, both physically and spiritually.

Ancient celebrations

Many ancient civilizations built monuments aligned with the sun’s position during equinoxes, demonstrating the importance of this event. For example, the Mayans’ pyramid at Chichen Itza in Mexico is designed so that during the equinox, the shadow creates the appearance of a serpent slithering down the steps, symbolizing Kukulkan, the feathered serpent god.


In Christianity, the timing of Easter is closely related to the spring equinox. Easter Sunday is determined as the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. This connection emphasizes themes of resurrection and new life.


The Persian New Year, known as Nowruz, coincides with the spring equinox. It is a celebration of nature’s renewal, family gatherings, and the sharing of meals. Nowruz has been celebrated for over 3,000 years across regions that were once part of the Persian Empire.

Higan in Japan

In Japan, the week of the spring equinox is called Higan. It is a Buddhist holiday that represents a period to remember the dead by visiting, cleaning, and decorating their graves. Higan means “the other shore” and refers to the spirits of the deceased reaching Nirvana.

Pagan and Neopagan celebrations

For pagans and some neopagans, the spring equinox is celebrated as Ostara. It’s a time to honor the goddess of dawn and fertility, Eostre, who is often symbolized by the hare and the egg, representing fertility and rebirth.

Earth Day

Some cultures and organizations choose the spring equinox as a symbolic day to celebrate Earth Day, focusing on environmental conservation and the appreciation of our planet’s natural beauty and resources.

The spring equinox serves as a universal symbol of balance and a time to honor growth, life, and renewal. Its celebrations across different cultures underline the human connection to the cycles of nature and the importance of harmony with the environment.

Meteorological vs. astronomical seasons

The classification of seasons can be approached in two distinct ways: meteorologically and astronomically. Meteorological seasons are based on annual temperature patterns and divide the year into four three-month periods, starting with spring on March 1, followed by summer on June 1, autumn on September 1, and winter on December 1.

Astronomical seasons, on the other hand, are determined by the Earth’s position in its orbit around the sun, with equinoxes heralding the beginnings of spring and autumn, and solstices marking the onset of summer and winter.

As we embrace the changing seasons, the spring equinox invites us to reflect on the Earth’s natural rhythms and the interconnectedness of our global environment, offering a moment to appreciate the balance and transitions that define our planetary experience.


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