For thousands of years, different peoples, cultures and faiths the world over have celebrated the spring equinox. Traditions and rituals vary, but hope, fertility, rebirth, awakenings, life and energy are all common themes surrounding this astronomical event, which will occur this year on Sunday, March 20th at 12:30am EST.
“Equinox” means “equal night” and the spring equinox occurs when there is a balance of day and night because the sun is sitting on the Earth’s equator.
In Mexico, the Mayan archaeological site of Chichen Itza is perhaps the most well-known and popular place to celebrate the spring equinox. The Mayans left behind a fascinating display at the Kulkulkan temple, which is a lasting testament to their astronomical knowledge. On both the fall and spring equinoxes, the sun’s light creates a mix of light and shadow which makes it appear as though a serpent is slithering along the pyramid steps. This phenomena can be seen in the late afternoon, for about an hour, and occurs for several days.
In Japan, many Buddhists celebrate ‘Higan’, which means ‘to arrive on the Other Shore’. Beginning on the spring equinox, it’s celebrated for a week. Nirvana, an achievement of wisdom that allows reincarnation to cease is reflected upon. As well, ancestors who’ve recently passed are honored.
In China, the festival of Qing Ming, also known as the Pure Brightness Festival, is celebrated April 4th-6th every year. These three days honors ancestors and the change of seasons. Tombs are cleaned and cared for, and food and flowers are brought to adorn them. Trees are planted. Kites are flown, often at night, with small lanterns attached to them.
The feast of Easter is the center of Christian beliefs and teachings, as it recognizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ following his death on the cross. Easter is recognized as the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. Many fast during the forty days of Lent, which represents the time Jesus spent in the desert. Often, candle light services take place at sunrise. Popular customs in the United States include dying, decorating and hiding eggs, the Easter Bunny, and Easter baskets, filled with chocolate and other treats. The rabbit and eggs represent fertility.
What customs, festivals or other traditions do you observe during the spring equinox?
Rebecca E. Neely tells stories packed with a punch of romance and the paranormal. Woo hoo! The Keeper, 1st in the Crossing Realms series, is available now on Amazon.