Today is the Vernal Equinox, a time to celebrate the renewal and rebirth in the world around us.
As Earth revolves around the sun, there are two days each year when the sun is exactly above the equator. These days — called “equinoxes” — occur around March 20 or 21 and September 22 or 23.
Equinox literally means “equal night,” since the length of day and night is nearly equal in all parts of the world during this time.
The March equinox marks when the northern hemisphere starts to tilt toward the sun, which means longer, sunnier days. In the northern hemisphere, the March equinox is called the “vernal equinox” because it signals the beginning of spring (“vernal” means fresh or new like the spring). The September equinox is called the “autumnal equinox” because it marks the first day of autumn.
People have celebrated the vernal equinox for centuries. For ancient cultures, the vernal equinox signaled that their food supplies would soon return.
Early Egyptians even built the Great Sphinx of Giza so that it points directly toward the rising sun on the day of the vernal equinox.
In Christianity, the vernal equinox is significant because Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
The word Ostara is just one of the names applied to the celebration of the spring equinox. The Venerable Bede said the origin of the word is actually from Eostre, a Germanic goddess of spring. It is also the origin of our word Easter.
Spring equinox signals fertility, both for plants and animals. In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol — this is a species of rabbit that is nocturnal most of the year, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The males are so frisky that they get frustrated when rebuffed by their mates, and bounce around erratically. Hence the expression “mad as a March hare.”
For years I believed that special astronomical properties of the vernal equinox make it possible to balance eggs on end. This year I found out it is totally untrue.
It’s actually possible to balance eggs on end any day of the year. It just takes a lot of patience and determination. There’s nothing magical about the vernal equinox that makes it any easier to balance an egg on end.