First Day of Spring: Here’s 3 Things You Should Know about the Vernal Equinox
The first day of spring is here! This year, the vernal equinox is today Tuesday, March 20 at 11:15 am CDT. If you’re in the Dallas area, you’re in luck (and pretty much alone). You’ll be feeling spring-like temperatures and basking in the sunlight. Everyone else, pull out your parkas and umbrellas. The Northeast will be seeing a winter-level snowstorm, while the rest of the country will come up against heavy rains.
It’s pretty obvious that first day of spring isn’t determined by weather, so what exactly is the vernal equinox? From scientific data to ancient temples, here are three things you should know about today.
On the spring equinox, day and night each last approximately 12 hours. Scientifically speaking, this means the tilt of the Earth’s axis is perpendicular to the sun’s rays. So, if you were standing on the equator today, the sun would pass directly over your head. Every year, the specific day of the vernal equinox changes, but it generally lands around March 19-21st. Whatever the date, the vernal equinox marks the start of spring—a time for new beginnings, births, and fresh growth.
Technically, there are two first days of spring. (In other words, double the celebration.) The vernal equinox is determined by the astronomical calendar. This calendar has been used for thousands of years to determine what we now call “astronomical seasons.” But, because the Earth’s orbit is elliptical, the equinoxes (and solstices) vary year-to-year.
So, meteorologists and climatologists came up with the meteorological seasons. Their seasons are determined by annual temperature cycles and our current calendar. In the meteorological calendar, the length of each season is more consistent, so calculating season statistics is easier. According to your weatherman, the first day of spring was actually March 1st.
Since ancient times, people have celebrated the beginning of spring. In India, the festival of Holi (or festival of color) greets spring and in Japan, the spring equinox is a national holiday—a time set apart to worship ancestors. But the real place to be on a spring equinox is the pyramid at Chichen Itzla, Mexico.
The pyramid at Chichen Itzla was built nearly 1,000 years ago by the Mayans. As the sun sets on the equinoxes, sunlight and shadows coordinate so that the sun’s rays resemble a snake body joining its stone head at the base of the pyramid. For nearly a millennium ago, that’s incredible architectural planning.
But, across all cultures and time, the most famous way to celebrate spring is to grow—and grow food. This year, use the equinox as an opportunity to start growing! There’s no better way to ring in spring with style than by starting your own garden and embarking on an experience filled with fresh starts, delicious harvests, and plenty of sun.