By Allison Shoaf
An equinox is the two points on the sphere where the equator intersects the eclipse or two times each year starting March 21 and September 23 when the sun crosses the equator and day, and night are everywhere on earth at about equal time and length. There are many tales, stories, and scientific explanations for the equinoxes. Some information is not thought of by people because they may not have known or think little of it.
Equinox is descendant from the word aequus, it is the Latin word for “equal,” and nox, the Latin word for “night.” In the northern hemisphere, Vernal Equinox is the first day of Spring and happens when the sun moves north across the equator. Vernal comes from Latin word ver, meaning “spring.” “Autumnal equinox marks the first day of autumn in the northern hemisphere and occurs when the sun crosses the equator going south” (“Word of the Day: Equinox | Merriam-Webster”).
Middle English, from Anglo-French or Medieval Latin:
Medieval Latin- equinoxium
Alteration of Latin- aequinoctium
Equinoxes happen between the solstices, mark the beginning of Spring, and Fall seasons. Astronomers define the equinox as the moment the Earth’s Equator on its axis passes the same plane as the Sun’s equator. March and September dates here as the most places on the planet that experience the Equinox with as much nighttime as daytime, hence “Equal Night.” The Vernal Equinox takes place on March 20th or 21st and signals the start of spring in the northern hemisphere and fall in the southern hemisphere (“Spring Equinox – HISTORY”).
The Earth tilts at an angle of 23.5 degrees on its axis relative to its plane of orbit around the sun. As the Earth orbits the sun over the course of a year, various places get sunlight for different amounts of time (“Spring Equinox – HISTORY”). An equinox occurs at the moment when the Earth’s axis does not tilt toward or away from the sun. “A person standing on the equator can see the sun passing directly overhead.” Equinoxes are the only two times a year that the sun rises due east and sets due west. Six months after the March Equinox, another equinox occurs around September 22nd or 23rd. Since Earth takes 365.24 days (about 12 months) to orbit the sun, equinoxes happen around six hours later from year to year, before moving back a day on leap years.
Diverse cultures celebrate holidays and change of seasons. Many include the equinoxes in unique festivals and activities. Sometimes, such correlations between these holidays and seasonal changes are used or happen at the same time as other events. Examples that can be used are planting fresh crops or natural disasters and events. The turn in season has been celebrated by many cultures throughout many decades. They held festivals for their gods and goddesses at this time of year (“BBC – Religions – Paganism: Spring Equinox”). Aphrodite from Cyprus, Hathor from Egypt, and Ostara from Scandinavia. The Celts continued tradition through festivities as well.
In a religious context, Pagans today celebrate the coming of spring with the attribute of changes that are going on in the world to an increase in the powers of their God and Goddess. The personified Spring Equinox Gods are the Green Man and Mother Earth. Green Man was said to be born in the depths of winter and to live through the rest of the year until he dies at Samhain. Some Pagans carry out certain rituals. For instance, people are chosen to act out the roles of Spring God and Goddess, playing out courtship and symbolically planting seeds into the ground. The celebration continues with egg races, egg hunts, egg eating, and egg painting which are traditional activities at this time of year.
Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument in England, is the remains of huge standing stones. Druids and Pagans congregate around the monument, watch the sun rise on the equinox, and welcome Spring. However, Stonehenge is unclear whether to be for this reason and those who constructed it left no written record about why or even how it was built.
At the ruins of Chichen Itza, the ancient Maya city in Mexico, crowds gather to watch the afternoon sun create shadows that resemble a snake moving along the stairs of the 79-foot-tall Pyramid of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo. On the Spring Equinox, the snake descends the pyramid and conjoins or merges with a large serpent head sculpture at the base of the structure.
Among varying equinox celebrations, Nowruz the Persian New Year, starts on the Vernal Equinox. It is a centuries-old holiday celebrated by millions of people around the world and lasts 13 days (about 2 weeks). In Japan, the Spring Equinox is a national holiday called Shunbun ni Hi. Some commemorate the day by tending to the graves of their ancestors (“Spring Equinox – HISTORY”).
In an interview, Mr. Jasek, a Lenape Teacher, and Olivia George, a Lenape ADT student, were asked about the Spring Equinox. Some questions they considered were: What do you believe the Vernal Equinox is? Do you celebrate the Vernal Equinox? Both interviewees knew what the Vernal Equinox was and neither celebrated any further then changing the clocks for Daylight Savings Time.
The Vernal Equinox has many traditions and celebrations among a variety of cultures, it has many roots in history and language. The equinox may center around beliefs, togetherness, traditions as the season changes. Some information is not thought of by people because they may not have known or thought little of it. It is great to know small or even big details about a subject. The Vernal Equinox is a year-round happening that takes place all over the world to create “Equal Night.”
Ray, Doug. “What Is a Solstice and What Is an Equinox (and Why Should I Care)?” The Franklin Institute, 12 June 2018, www.fi.edu/blog/solstice-equinox
“Definition of EQUINOX.” Www.merriam-Webster.com, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/equinox.
History.com Editors. “Spring Equinox.” HISTORY, 15 Mar. 2017, www.history.com/topics/natural-disasters-and-environment/vernal-spring-equinox.
“BBC – Religions – Paganism: Spring Equinox.” Www.bbc.co.uk, www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/paganism/holydays/springequinox.shtml.