While the current wave of blustery cold conditions may seem anything but spring-like, in a few short days the vernal equinox will mark the beginning of the spring season in the northern hemisphere. Many cultures will take part in spring equinox rituals to welcome in the season and celebrate the warm weather and long sunny days to come. These festive traditions can be an excellent way to welcome the season, and bid brittle winter a not-so-fond farewell.
Equinox, which is Latin for "equal night," marks the meteorologically significant period where the hours of day and night are split equally. On Monday, March 20 the northern hemisphere will begin its tilt towards the Sun; then, come the spring equinox the big, bright star will bisect the equator and shine down on the North and South poles in the same amount.
As the cold weather retreats, animals come out of hibernation, breeding seasons begins, and blooms sprout from the ground, the vernal equinox is seen as a time of rebirth. This welcome change is celebrated in spring festivals around the world within a few weeks of the March equinox. The popular holidays of Easter and Passover are among these celebrations, as well as many other ancient traditions to honor this season of rejuvenation. It is also a time when many cultures celebrate the New Year as a nod to this celestial significance in the Earth's orbit.
To ring in spring this year, try a few of these customs, and have a little ceremony all your own!
1Balance An Egg On Its End
The egg, with all its promise of new life, is a common symbol of spring, and therefore finds its way into a multitude of spring celebrations. While many cultures from the ancient Saxons to the ancient Persians chose to dye and decorate eggs, an ancient Chinese folk belief states that on the first day of spring, you can stand an egg upright with minimal effort. Despite the mystical roots of the myth, there is no special gravitational forces at work due to the alignment of the Sun — but that doesn't mean you shouldn't grab a fresh egg and give it a try!
2Spend Time With Relatives
Shunbun no Hi, also known as Vernal Equinox Day, is considered a national holiday in Japan, a time to celebrate family and nature. The special day, which falls in the middle of the seven-day festival of Haru no Higan, is a time when children return home and families gather to visit ancestral grave sites and honor and comfort the spirits by offering flowers and cleaning tombstones. As a nod to this ancient Buddhist tradition, make the vernal equinox a time of family reunion and take a moment to honor those who have passed. And don't forget to look out for the early blooming of local cherry blossoms!
3Visit Ancient Monuments
The unique alignment of the sun makes the spring equinox the perfect time to take a trip. For those who wish to experience a remarkable sunrise, head over to Stonehenge or the Mayan site of Chichén Itza. These ancient monuments built around celestial calendars transform with the rising of the Sun during the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, as the Sun perfectly aligns with the stone monuments for symbolic significance.
4Attend A Holi Festival And Get Colorful
Hindus celebrate the coming of spring with Holi, the "festival of colors." Taking place on the final full moon of the month, revelers take to the street and toss brightly-colored powder on friends and strangers alike to celebrate Krishna's pranks (much like the Western spring tradition of April Fool's Day). They welcome the season by playing, laughing, and dancing in the streets, which sounds pretty darn fun to me. While this year, Holi will not take place exactly on the vernal equinox, it fell pretty close to it on March 12.
5Search For A Shamrock
For many druid tribes, the vernal equinox, known as Alban Eilir )which translates to "Light of the Earth"), celebrates nature in a time of transition. The Earth is thawing making way for the blooming daffodils, tulips, and, of course, clovers. The trefoil or shamrock was especially sacred to the druids; its three heart-shaped leaves symbolized the triple goddess known as the "Three Morgans." The shamrock was believed to have mystical powers of knowledge and protection, so this year, why not go on the hunt for a three-leaf clover and pin it to your clothing as a symbol of the power of spring.
6Plant Some Seeds
While it is typical to start planting hearty vegetables in March and April, this rebirth of the Earth had special significance in ancient Italy. Women would make a special pilgrimage to the gardens of Adonis on the vernal equinox to plant seeds. In Sicily, the custom lives on, and women plant seeds of fennel, lettuce, grains, lentils, and flowers in pots on this day. The sprouts are later tied with a red ribbon and become symbols of life over death when placed on graves during Good Friday.
7Feast And Exchange Gifts
Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, falls on the day of the spring equinox. The spring festival has ancient roots going back thousands of years and was once celebrated with nearly two weeks of feasting and exchanging gifts, lighting bonfires, and the symbolic sprinkling of water. This year, ring in spring and celebrate rebirth by enjoying a hearty meal with friends and family.