First day of spring: interesting facts

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Retrieve your gardening gloves and sandals from their sad storage closet. March 20 is officially the first day of spring! Remember spring? Budding tree branches, the aroma of flowers wafting in the air, a warm breeze gusting through the window… For those who endured a violent shaking in the snow globe that is winter, spring feels well deserved.

So, why does the season officially start on March 20? Glad you asked! To answer, let’s blast off to an interstellar level.

  • The sun passes directly over the equator twice a year, resulting in an equinox (spring is vernal, fall is autumnal).
  • Vernal means fresh or new (for spring)
  • Equinox means “equal night,” because daytime and nighttime become nearly equal, at about 12 hours each.
  • The Northern Hemisphere starts tilting toward the sun today, resulting in longer, sunnier days.
  • This means the Southern Hemisphere starts tilting away, making today their autumnal equinox.
  • A solar eclipse occurs on today’s vernal equinox.
  • The sun will set due east and due west today.
  • A person at the North Pole will see the sun skim the horizon today, indicating the beginning of a 6-month period of daylight.
  • Someone on the South Pole will also watch the sun glance the horizon, signaling the start of a 6-month period of darkness.

Celebrations:

  • Mayans celebrated the vernal equinox when the sun set on their ceremonial pyramid. The lengthening shadows fell on the pyramid’s staircase, giving the illusion of a diamond-backed snake. This is called “The Return of the Sun Serpent.”
  • Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
  • The Egyptian great Sphinx points directly toward the rising sun on the date of the first equinox.
  • The vernal equinox marks the start of Nowruz (“new day”), beginning the Persian New Year

My favorite place to celebrate spring is the Sunken Gardens. There are terraces of stunning blossoms, an aromatic rose garden and ponds of blooming lily pads and brightly colored fish.

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I’m so thankful for the return of warm sunlight, long days, light jackets and new life. What are you most excited about with the start of spring?

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