The Spring Equinox: Its Meaning and Significance
Mankind has always had a strong affinity with celestial bodies and the seasons. Nearly every calendar and their corresponding culture have prescribed the passage of the Sun through the sky to represent a series of myths and ceremonial events. The Spring Equinox is no different. From some of the biggest celebrations in modern day Asia to pagan Celtic ceremonies of over 2000 years ago (and to Ancient Egyptian/Sumerian tradition possibly dating back over ten thousand years ago) the Spring Equinox has been an event to commemorate.
We are going to explore some of the specifics of the Spring Equinox. We will examine Spring equinox rituals around the world and some Spring equinox ritual ideas you can do yourself.
What is an Equinox?
While the winter and summer solstices mark the days of the Sun’s most southerly or northerly position relative to the equator, the equinoxes occur when a plane drawn through Earth’s equator would pass through the center of the Sun. Simply put, the solstices mark the moments when the day is either longest or shortest, while the equinoxes mark the period when day and night are of equal length.
These are the traditional markers for the changing of the seasons. The Spring equinox, for example, usually marks the first day of spring in many cultures.
What do the Equinoxes Signify?
The significance of the Equinox depends on who you ask. While we have already explained the simple scientific answer regarding the movement of the Earth relative to the sun and as the time when day/night are on equal grounds – a Wiccan, for example, would give you a whole series of other meanings.
As far back as ancient Mesopotamia, you can find celebrations of the Equinox. For these agrarian people, the beginning of spring marked the beginning of their year. Many ancient farming cultures derived their calendars from these origins, so for many, “March” (or the period around the equinox) is the first month of the year.
The old Gaelic celebration of Imbolc used the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox as their day for the first of spring. Some of the earliest Irish literature talks about this event, showing that the equinox was just as relevant to them as it was for numerous other cultures. It may have been relevant to Irish culture dating all the way back to the Neolithic period.
Hilaria in the Roman Empire was celebrated the day after the Spring Equinox, to celebrate the first day of the year which lasted longer than the night. A solemn procession of artwork followed by games, parties, and masquerades all occurred on this day in honor of the mother of gods. Weddings and other events were often held on this day.
There are also other Holidays like Songkran and Easter that are based off the Spring Equinox but occur shortly after. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. Songkran is possibly the biggest celebration in Thailand and marks the beginning of their year (which is fitting since they are a heavily agrarian culture).
The original Songkran was most likely closer to the actual date of the Equinox, but has shifted to April since their calendars were imperfect over long periods of time. Excessively huge water fights mark the three days of Songkran. If you haven’t seen a video of it, you should check it out.
It’s even theorized April Fools’ day is derived from people mocking those who celebrated the New Year at the Equinox rather than making the shift to January 1st.
Some Simple Things You can do for the Spring Equinox
Since spring is seen as a time for the sun and life to begin anew and enter the world once again, many like to commemorate the occasion by clearing their minds, and their shelves. Jewish tradition has important cleaning to be done at this time, as does the Catholic Church. In fact, a whole lot of cleaning. Most popularly in the West, “Spring Cleaning” takes place during this period of the year. Even the massive water fights of Songkran began as a water cleaning ritual of their Buddhist and Hindu statues.
You would be surprised how good you can feel this time of year if you take the time to clean up your life. Check off the boxes on your to-do list and start the year with a clean slate. Take a little time and learn more about the Spring equinox with a good book like ‘The Magic of the Spring Equinox’ by Danu Forest on Geeker. After that, you’ll be ready to go to some nearby cultural centers or do a little traveling and see the amazing thousand-year-old traditions taking place everywhere.