5 Things About The First Day Of Spring

Hello, Darlings, and hello spring!

That’s right—the days of woolen mittens, dry heat blasting in our homes (as a Floridian and humidity lover, I particularly detest this), knee-high boots, and slipping onto our arses over a bit of dodgy ice are (largely) behind us. What with Boston  breaking snow records with 108.6 inches since last Sunday, and a little town in Italy by the name of Capracotta receiving 100.8 inches in just 18-hours on March 5th, I think all of us are a little spring crazy.

But take heart, as the ice is melting and the birds are emerging. Today is the Vernal Equinox, or the first day of spring, in the Northern Hemisphere. Today also marks the Fall Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere, being the first day of autumn. You may be wondering what is the Vernal Equinox? And is it actually equal day and night? Here is a basic guide on the spring equinox for y’all to read up on while you are donning your first pair of shorts of the year:

So what really is the spring equinox?

It’s the first day of the solar new year, and is one of only two days when the sun passes over the Equator (the other day is the fall equinox, which usually occurs on or around September 21 in the Northern Hemisphere). The earth, which is almost always tilted at 23.5 degrees, actually has no tilt on equinoxes, so it is perpendicular to the rays of the sun. It’s also the only day of the year a person standing on the equator can look up and see the sun directly overhead at noontime.

Does the first day of spring always land on March 20?

No, not always. True, since 2012, it has been March 20, and it will be the same for next year. But the first day of spring landed on March 21 36 times in the twentieth century, and may even land on March 19 or 22. Safely speaking though, you can bet that it will be on March 20 or 21.

The first day of spring has equal amounts of day and night, right?

For those of you learned in Latin, you’ll know that “equinox” translates to “equal night.” But in actuality, the equinoxes are not exactly 12 hour day, 12 hour night. Why? Because a sunrise is defined when the top part of the sun peeks over the horizon, and a sunset when the top of it dips below the horizon, so the day is a few minutes longer on the equinox. It is pretty damn close, but the actual perfectly divided day and night happens a few days before the vernal equinox, and a few days after the fall equinox.

How is, or has, the first day of spring been celebrated?

As you might expect, the first day of spring has been a pretty big deal for a while. It marks the end of icy coldness, and new life and food springing forth. Here’s just a sampling of how the first day of spring has been celebrated around the world:

  • Nyepi: An annual feast in Bali, Indonesia, which is held to celebrate the spring equinox. Each community in Bali drives out the devils in order to purify, with the aid of riots and magical curses.
  • Nowruz: If you have never heard of this celebration, you may have read about the Obama family recently hosting a Nowruz celebration of their own. The first day of spring marks the Persian New Year, and they use a hell lot of fire to celebrate the day. Today, Afghans, Iranians and Pakistanis are the ones who celebrate it.
  • Maslenitsa: An ancient Slavic two-week festivity in which Jarilo, the Sun God, was said to melt the snow and awaken spring. They made pancakes and burned effigies. It’s still celebrated today, but not quite so enthusiastically.
  • Easter: Yeah, this doesn’t actually celebrate the first day of spring, but every Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox, so the first day of spring is pretty important to Christians.

Why the 2015 Equinox is triply super:

What’s super exciting about ringing in the equinox this year is that it happens to fall on the same date as a solar eclipse, with a Supermoon-making it a Supermoon total eclipse (yep, that’s the real name). A solar eclipse happens when the sun and moon are aligned, so that the moon blocks the sun. A super moon is when the new or full moon gets as close to the earth as it can, making it look, well, super big. And both of these lunar events happen to fall on the equinox, making it super awesome. The next equinox happening at the same time as a solar eclipse won’t be until 2053, so this is pretty super-duper (OK, I’ll stop with the super).

Happy Vernal Equinox, and together, darlings, let’s shake the ice from our brows, dig out our shorts, and welcome spring!

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