First Day of Spring 2021: The Spring Equinox

Celebrate the Vernal Equinox and the Start of Spring!

March 18, 2021
Welcome Spring Equinox

In 2021, the spring equinox occurs on Saturday, March 20. This event marks the astronomical first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. What does equinox mean? What happens on the equinox? What determines the first day of spring? Before you try to balance that egg, read this!

What Is the Spring Equinox?

In the Northern Hemisphere, the March equinox (aka spring equinox or vernal equinox) occurs when the Sun crosses the equator line, heading north. This event marks the start of spring in the northern half of the globe. After this date, the Northern Hemisphere begins to be tilted more toward the Sun, resulting in increasing daylight hours and warming temperatures. (In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the opposite: the March equinox marks the start of autumn, as the Southern Hemisphere begins to be tilted away from the Sun.)

→ What sort of weather will spring bring? Check out our Spring Forecast to find out!

When Is the First Day of Spring?

In 2021, the March equinox happens on Saturday, March 20, at 5:37 A.M. EDT. In the Northern Hemisphere, this date marks the start of the spring season.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the March equinox marks the start of autumn, while the September equinox marks the start of spring.

Spring Equinox Dates and Times

Year Spring Equinox (Northern Hemisphere)
2021 Saturday, March 20, at 5:37 A.M. EDT
2022 Sunday, March 20, at 11:33 A.M. EDT
2023 Monday, March 20, at 5:24 P.M. EDT
2024 Tuesday, March 19, at 11:06 P.M. EDT

What Does Spring “Equinox” Mean, Exactly?

The word equinox comes from the Latin words for “equal night”—aequus (equal) and nox (night). 

On the equinox, the length of day and night is nearly equal in all parts of the world. 

With the equinox, enjoy an increasing amount of sunlight hours, with earlier dawns and later sunsets! See your personalized Sun rise and set calculator.

Equinox diagram
On the equinox, Earth’s two hemispheres receive the Sun’s rays about equally. 

What Happens on the March Equinox?

On the March equinox, the Sun crosses the celestial equator going south to north. It’s called the “celestial” equator because it’s an imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator.

If you were standing on the equator, the Sun would pass directly overhead on its way north. 

Equinoxes are the only two times each year that the Sun rises due east and sets due west for all of us on Earth!

While the Sun passes overhead, the tilt of the Earth is zero relative to the Sun, which means that Earth’s axis neither points toward nor away from the Sun. (Note, however, that the Earth never orbits upright, but is always tilted on its axis by about 23.5 degrees.)

After the spring equinox, the Northern Hemisphere tilts toward the Sun. Although in most locations (the North Pole and Equator being exceptions) the amount of daylight had been increasing each day after the winter solstice, after the spring equinox, many places will experience more daylight than darkness in each 24-hour day. The amount of daylight each day will continue to increase until the summer solstice in June, during which the longest period of daylight occurs.

Read more about the reason for the seasons.

Crocus field in spring
Crocuses are a sure sign of spring!

Spring Equinox FAQs

Q: Does Spring Begin on March 1 or on the Equinox?

A: Well, both. The answer depends on your definition of “spring.” Both dates are accurate; they’re just from different perspectives. We’ll explain …

Astronomically speaking, the first day of spring is marked by the spring equinox, which falls on March 19, 20, or 21 every year. The equinox happens at the same moment worldwide, although our clock times reflect a different time zone. And, as mentioned above, this date only signals spring’s beginning in the Northern Hemisphere; it announces fall’s arrival in the Southern Hemisphere.

Interestingly, due to time zone differences, there isn’t a March 21 equinox in mainland U.S. during the entire 21st century! We won’t see a March 21 equinox again until 2101.

Meteorologically speaking, the official first day of spring is March 1 (and the last is May 31). Weather scientists divide the year into quarters to make it easier to compare seasonal and monthly statistics from one year to the next. The meteorological seasons are based on annual temperature cycles rather than on the position of Earth in relation to the Sun, and they more closely follow the Gregorian calendar. Using the dates of the astronomical equinoxes and solstices for the seasons would present a statistical problem, as these dates can vary slightly each year.

Daffodils in field
Did you know that daffodils are one of March’s Birth Flowers?

Q: Are Day and Night Equal on the Equinox?

A: No, but they are quite close to equal. In reality, day and night are not exactly equal on the equinox for two reasons: First, daytime begins the moment any part of the Sun appears over the horizon and is not finished until the last part of the Sun disappears below the horizon. If the Sun were to shrink to a starlike point and we lived in a world without air, the spring and fall equinoxes would truly have equal nights.

Read about more fun facts in the Almanac Astronomer’s post, “Vernal Equinox Oddities.”

Multicolored tulip flowers

Q: According to folklore, you can stand a raw egg on its end on the equinox. Is this true?

A: This egg folklore became popular in 1945 following a LIFE article about the spring practice. “The origins of this myth are attributed to stories that the ancient Chinese would create displays of eggs standing on end during the first day of spring,” according to John Millis, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Anderson University in South Carolina. “The ancient Chinese celebrated the first day of spring about six weeks earlier than the equinox”—not just on the equinox itself.

As with most folklore, it’s only partly true. You should be able to balance an egg on its end on the equiox, but it’s possible to balance an egg on other days, too!

Folklore or not, this egg trick sounded like fun to us. One spring, a few minutes before the vernal equinox, several Almanac editors tried this trick. For a full workday, 17 out of 24 eggs stood on end. Three days later, we tried this trick again and found similar results. Perhaps three days after the equinox was still too near. Perhaps the equinox has nothing to do with it. Perhaps we just don’t like to take ourselves too seriously!

Try this yourself and let us know what happens. (Tip: You’ll probably have better luck balancing an egg if you try it on a rough surface or use an egg that has a bumpy end.)

Spring bird bath

Q: Which Day Has the Most Sunlight in North America?

A:  The Summer—or “June”—Solstice is called the “longest” day of the year! The date of the longest day actually varies from June 20 to June 22, depending on the year, and the local time zone. By “longest day,” we mean the day that gets the most daylight (versus darkness). See our Summer Solstice page.

How Do You Celebrate the Vernal Equinox?

To us, the vernal equinox signals new beginnings and nature’s renewal in the Northern Hemisphere.
Many cultures celebrate with spring festivals, such as Easter and Passover.

Observe nature around you!

  • Are worms and grubs reappearing? (The March Full Moon is called the “Worm Moon” for this very reason!)
  • Watch the arc of the Sun across the sky as it shifts toward the north. Birds are migrating northward, along with the path of the Sun.
  • Are you noticing that the days are getting longer? Did you know that the increasing sunlight inspires birds to sing? Cool, eh? Enjoy our Bird Songs page.
  • Are daffodils poking up their heads? Trees, shrubs, and flowers are sensitive to temperature and day length, too! Since ancient days, people have used natural events as indicators of when the weather is right for planting. For example: Blooming crocus are your cue to plant radishes, parsnips, and spinach. See more of nature’s signs.
  • Can you feel the Sun getting stronger? The longer days bring high temperatures. Both we and the animals around us discard our warm clothes and heavy coats!
  • Do you plan to garden? See which days are the best planting dates according to your local frost dates or consult our Vegetable Gardening for Beginners guide for gardening tips!
  • Are you craving fresh foods after a long winter? A Spring Tonic, using the early greens of spring, may be just the thing you need! Also, find some new spring recipes using what’s fresh and seasonal!

Rabbit with clover flower

Ancient Equinox Traditions: The Snake of Sunlight

Scientific explanation aside, our ancestors were more connected to the Sun than we are today. They observed its pathway across the sky, and they tracked how the sunrise, sunset, and day length changed, using the Sun (and Moon) as a clock and calendar.

There are many ancient sites that mark the equinoxes (and solstices). One of the most famous ancient Spring equinox celebrations took place at Chichen Itza in Mexico. The Mayans built a huge pyramid around the year A.D. 1000. Even today, the way the Sun’s light falls on it signals the beginning of the seasons. On the spring equinox, it looks like a huge snake is slithering down the steps. Mayans called this day “the return of the Sun serpent.”

chichen-itza_full_width_0.jpg

See more examples of ancient seasonal markers.

Spring Verse, Quotes, and Sayings

Verse

  • For glad Spring has begun,
    And to the ardent sun
    The earth, long time so bleak,
    Turns a frost-bitten cheek.

    - Celia Thaxter, American poet (1835–94)
     
  • Spring-time sweet!
    The whole Earth smiles, thy coming to greet. 
    - Unknown
     
  • Never yet was a springtime,
    Late though lingered the snow,
    That the sap stirred not at the whisper
    Of the southwind, sweet and low.

    - Margaret Elizabeth Sangster, American writer (1838–1912)

Quotes

  • Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!”
    - Robin Williams (1951–2014)

Sayings

  • Bluebirds are a sign of spring; warm weather and gentle south breezes they bring.
  • One swallow does not make a spring.
  • In spring, no one thinks of the snow that fell last year.
  • When the dandelions bloom early in spring, there will be a short season. When they bloom late, expect a dry summer. 
  • Don’t say that spring has come until you can put your foot on nine daisies.

equinox-nature-3106216_1920_full_width.jpg

Learn More About the First Days of Seasons

The First Days of the Seasons are marked by four astronomical events:

Look around! Observe! What are the signs of spring in your region? Please share in the comments below!

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Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Spring!!!!!!!!

Spring!!!!!!!!

Spring 2021

Here the frogs are singing their sweet songs. The robins and turkey buzzards are nesting. The winds are strong and the sun's warm rays feels so nice. So peaceful to open a window and here the sounds of nature waking up. Welcome spring! Goodbye for now winter.

Spring begins

Spring begins today on March 20th, 2021, but the first day of spring is actually tomorrow March 21st, 2021

Spring equinox

Sorry but the spring equinox doesn’t represent the first day of spring , rather mid spring, the first day of spring is Beltane
Same as the summer solstice is mid summer hence the old name mid summers Eve

Springtime!!!

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me!!! Despite this, the birds are gathering material for nesting and the trees are waking up from a long winter sleep!!!!!! And as usual, the Blues jays and crow's are at each other's throats!!! But for the most part, it's business as usual with mother nature!!! Heres a good one for you, the longer days and higher temperatures do trigger a lot of things out of doors!!! But what do they trigger in us, as human beings??? Something to think about!!!

Equinox

Spring has brought up the violets, Daffodils & Primrose in Kent and the feeders are emptied in a day whilst the nests are built with wildlife enjoying the brighter days

First robin sighting

On Saturday, March 6th, while on a mid morning bike ride, I spotted a robin searching an open grassy plain for nourishment. This beats least years sighting by six days.
Hurray for Spring!

Cold & blustery

Just poked my nose out the door - it's quite windy and cold. My end of the apartment building is about 8-10 feet from a big ditch/creek.... The water has gone down more (grateful for that) I'm in NW Ohio and most of the snow is gone. Now we have lots of mud.

Fresh Air In

Today is the first day that I’ve been able to have the front door open, without freezing, and letting in cool clean air. Spring is just around the corner.

Not spring yet but...

this early morning, stepping outside after nearly 2 weeks of freezing and way below 0 temperatures, I heard the sweet sound of several birds welcoming the day. It brought a smile to my winter weary face.

Solstices and Equinoxes

I have just started reading and understanding these more in the last year. I find yours to be the most informative and so easy to read and understand. I run meditation classes, and have started doing them in conjunction with full and new moons. I also (with your information and guidance) did a Winter Solstice in last year. The group really benefited form the information I was passing on as well as this page details for them to read for themselves. Thank you kind regards

Spring 2021

I need it now. Please.

spring solstice 2020

From my calculations the spring 2020 solstice is March 20 03-50-34 GMT,
sun's declination is 00 00.0

Lit. Astronomical calculations by Jean Meeus. ISBN 0-943396-35-2

Spring solstice 2020

The Editors's picture

Yes, according to GMT (UTC), the March equinox occurred on March 20 at 3:50 am. When converting to Eastern Daylight Time, this changed the date and time to March 19 at 11:50 pm. At the March equinox, the sun’s position is 0 hours right ascension and 0 degrees declination. Thank you!

I hate to have to point out

I hate to have to point out what should be casual to the most obvious observer, but "After the spring equinox, the Northern Hemisphere tilts toward the Sun, which is why we start to get longer, sunnier days." is only 6 months off, because the days start getting longer after the winter solstice.

length of daylight

The Editors's picture

Thank you for your feedback! We have revised that section. In general, after the spring equinox, there will be more daylight than darkness, but you are correct that in the Northern Hemisphere, the length of daylight had been increasing since the December solstice, except for places like the North Pole (where the sun, which disappeared around the September equinox, doesn’t show until the March equinox) and the equator (where the length of daylight essentially is about 12 hours no matter what time of year).

Spring equinox

The time and date of the spring equinox moves about six hours each year because the length of the year is about 365.25 days. See the dates and times in the article above. Then we have leap year so it gets re-set to the earlier date. Let's not forget we had an extra leap year in 2000 because 2000 is divisible by 400 which I suspect is the reason leap year occurred the earliest in 124 years.. There was not a leap year in 1900.

"early" arrival of Spring

OOOOoooo! Earliest in 124 years!!!
Yeah, so much sensationalism for NOTHING!
As I see, at least one other person brought to your attention that this year was a LEAP YEAR!
Therefore, the calendar dates in March have been pushed by a day.
If this wasn't a Leap Year, spring would be on March 20th. NOTHING to see here folks... move along.

Spring

Happy Spring!
You have to believe the buds will blow. Believe in the grass in the days of snow; Ah, that's the reason a bird can sing. On his darkest day he believes in Spring.

You have to believe!

The Editors's picture

Thank you for this cheerful verse by Douglas Malloch (1877–1938). It’s the second verse of his poem “You Have to Believe in Happiness”—and it is a perfect way to start the day and the season. Cheers!

Spring is 'early' this year for another reason...

In case anyone forgot, this year was a leap year so another day was added to the calendar to make up for the fact that the solar year is really 365.25 days long. So technically had there been no February 29th this year to make up for our 'missing' day every 4 years, spring would not have falled on March 19 but on March 20.

Spring

Spring has sprung, the grass has Riz;
I wonder where the birdie is ?
The bird is on the wing.
Now, isn't that absurd;
I always thought the wing was on the bird !

Spring has sprung

The Editors's picture

We can not cite the author of this ditty, but we thank you, Dave, for sharing it and a smile.

spring equinox

First and only time in my life that spring equinox will fall on my birthday! :)

equinox b'day

The Editors's picture

Happy Birthday, Claire!

Spring

The teddy bears dancing, of course. But seriously, the pollen here in deep east Texas is so thick it turns my black vehicle yellow! Then I know it's Spring.

I saw two robins ....

Today out my front window. Earliest sighting I recall here in SE Minnesota.
Spring must be on the way !!

Spring

Here in Denver spring is really not here until around the first of April. If were lucky.

Sprig signs in Tn.

The daffodils are starting to bloom & so are the Bradford Pears. The grass is turning green & we've been getting a lot of rain. The birds are more active at my feeders. Come on Spring!!!

Correction

Above it says that we wont see another march 21 until 2101.... Im pretty sure you meant an equinox on the 21st right? Cuz you know... There will be about 80 more march 21 in the world until 2101.

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