Spring Equinox 2018: The First Day of Spring

March Equinox Date | Vernal Equinox

Welcome Spring Equinox

The spring equinox (also called the March equinox or vernal equinox) falls on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, at 12:15 P.M. EDT. This event marks the astronomical first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Enjoy our spring equinox facts, folklore, photos, and more!

When is the First Day of Spring?

The spring equinox always occurs on March 19, 20, or 21. 

Year Spring Equinox (Northern Hemisphere)
2018 Tuesday, March 20, at 12:15 P.M. EDT
2019 Wednesday, March 20, at 5:58 P.M. EDT
2020 Friday, March 19, at 11:50 P.M. EDT

What Does the March Equinox Mean?

The word equinox comes from Latin words which literally means “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 the increasing sunlight hours, with earlier dawns and later sunsets. See your personalized Sun rise and set calculator.

equinox_full_width.png
Image: On the equinox, Earth’s two hemispheres are receiving the Sun’s rays about equally. 

What Happens at the March Equinox?

On the March Equinox, the Sun crosses the celestial equator from 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 a year that Sun only 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 Norther Hemisphere tilts toward the Sun, which is why we start to get longer, sunnier days

Read more about the reason for the seasons.

Crocus field spring
Crocuses are a sure sign of Spring!

Spring Equinox FAQs

Q: Is The First Day of Spring Always March 20?

A: No, it’s not always March 20. And your answer also depends on your definition of the “first day of spring.”  Both are accurate; they’re just a different perspective. 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, though 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! Plus, we won’t see a March 21 in the world 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
Did you know that daffodils are one of March’s Birth Flowers?

Q: Are Day and Night Equal on the Equinox?

A: Close. In reality, day and night are not exactly equal at the equinox for two reasons: First, daytime begins the moment any part of the Sun is over the horizon, and it is not over until the last part of the Sun has set. 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, “March Equinox Oddities.”

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

A: 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 standing. Three days later, we tried this trick again and found similar results. Perhaps 3 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.

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 varies between June 20 and 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?

The vernal equinox signals new beginnings and nature’s renewal in the Northern Hemisphere! Many cultures celebrate spring festivals, like Easter and Passover.

Observe nature around you!

  • Worms begin to emerge from the earth. In fact, the March Full Moon is called “The Full Worm Moon” for this reason.
  • Notice 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.
  • Speaking of birds, did you know that the increasing sunlight is what triggers birds to sing? Cool, eh? Enjoy our Bird Songs page.
  • Trees, shrubs, and flowers are sensitive to temperature and day-length, too! Since ancient days, people have used them 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.
  • Of course, the longer days bring warmer weather! Both we and the animals around us strip off our clothes and heavy coats!
  • Ready, set, plant! March is time to start gardens and sow seeds in many regions. See the Best Planting Dates according to your local frost dates.

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; 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 was at Chichen Itza in Mexico. The Mayans built a huge pyramid around the year A.D. 1000.  The play of the Sun’s light 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

  • One swallow does not make a spring.
  • Bluebirds are a sign of spring; warm weather and gentle south breezes they bring.
  • In spring, no one thinks of the snow that fell last year.
  • Don’t say that spring has come until you can put your foot on nine daisies.
  • Spring-time sweet!
    The whole Earth smiles, thy coming to greet. 

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!

Reader Comments

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Agree!

Accuweather states that "Solar Summer" starts around May 7 and ends August 7. I really notice the increasing light even as early as late January, and the days decrease so quickly after the first week of August. Henry Beston said it beautifully:

“We lose a great deal, I think, when we lose this sense and feeling for the sun. When all has been said, the adventure of the sun is the great natural drama by which we live, and not to have joy in it and awe of it, not to share in it, is to close a dull door on natures's sustaining and poetic spirit.”
― Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod

I bet you would enjoy this book, I highly recommend it! Happy Spring!

Emancipation. Garden

Good

Early spring

In January when the ground was clear of snow I saw the daffodils shoots starting to appear, then I noticed the hyacinths and other spring bulbs poking their heads up. They are about a month earlier than the last couple of years.

A dozen or so robins have

A dozen or so robins have been in my yard eating worms from my lawn. Spring must be here for robins to come & the worms to be out.

every spring within 3 or 4

every spring within 3 or 4 days of official equinox i will see either the grackles return for the summer or the doves pairing up the canadian geese have been working on their nest for a couple weeks the grackles hit it closer than anything god bless all and have a nice enjoyable spring

I have grackles year round at

I have grackles year round at the store where I work, but I know spring is coming when the males start strutting and the females are gathering materials for their nests

About ten minutes ago I tried

About ten minutes ago I tried the egg and it is still standing. I also tried the broom and it is still standing. The broom is not new and is angled!

WOW! The egg is not

WOW! The egg is not surprising, but the broom thing is amazing! Do you think maybe you could fly it too?

reply to Charlie

I've been accused, but for that, you would need wormwood!

* clarification

* I am NOT recommending that anyone try that, (in fact I would strongly recommend against it). Most of the people here, (including me), are in it for the fun.

Tomorrow spring is

Tomorrow spring is coming...and so is snow in New York City!

I know Spring is going to

I know Spring is going to start when I walk out the door to head for work and I smell a Skunk near my path...

I know that Spring is coming

I know that Spring is coming when the Pecan Trees start budding. That means no more frost!! Of course, Easter also marks the beginning of Spring for me for basically the same reason. There is always a cold snap right around Easter. (Alabama)

Until I read "The bristles

Until I read "The bristles disperse the weight of the broom" I was imagining the broom the other way up! Makes much more sense now, thanks ringer.
I've left a pair of jeans standing up on their own before by accident. It was mildly amusing for a couple of minutes. I'm wondering what the point to all of this egg and broom balancing is.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is

Our Lord Jesus Christ is returning soon!!! Love never fails....AMEN!

I like a little notice before

I like a little notice before I get company!

C'mon everyone! Look busy! Someone said Jesus is coming!

What does J C's arrival have

What does J C's arrival have to do with this issue? Never mind His Father created the Universe.

Jesus IS God! He came to

Jesus IS God! He came to earth to absorb our sins by dying for us. There is only one throne in heaven.

Jesus sits on the Right Hand of God the Father

ACTS 7:55-56; ROMANS 8:34; EPHESIANS 1:20; COLOSSIANS 3:1; HEBREWS 1:3; HEBREWS 8:1
Yes Wayne. Jesus is God because He is the literal Son of God. The only begotten in the flesh. However we all have our spirits in us that were from the Father making us a child of God. I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that this is true. Pray & ask God and he will let you know it's true by the power of the Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit) that will go over you.
Romans 8:34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.1
John 20:17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. (Heavenly Father is our Father too) Jesus taught us how to pray to our Father in Heaven. The Godhead makes up 3 people. God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ & the Holy Ghost They are 3 beings. Only the Holy Ghost does not have a Physical body...His Spirit. Thats why He is called the Holy Spirit. Why would Jesus go and pray to Himself? Heavenly Father is the Father of our Spirit which dwells in our body. When we are conceived He puts our spirit in us just like he did when He put Jesus Spirit in Mary. However Jesus is the only one who has his physical & spirit body from our Father. That is what makes Him the only begotten of the Father in the flesh.

Amen, He surely is.. Sooner

Amen, He surely is.. Sooner than any of us know !!

So when does the countdown

So when does the countdown for Jesus' COMING begin? 2000 years ago?

Several years ago, I balanced

Several years ago, I balanced about 6 eggs from a dozen on their ends - the small pointed end, not the fatter end as seen in the image at the top. They were on a counter top next to the refrigerator, so we were careful about not shutting the door hard. I photographed them. They did not all fall over at the same time. Some lasted a week. That was before digital cameras or cell phones with cameras, so the photos were unable to be manipulated. My students were not all that impressed, however.

Broom? Ridiculous!

I balance eggs every year~ it

I balance eggs every year~ it has become my springtime ritual. I set my intentions (similar to New Year's resolutions) , then I dye the raw eggs with Easter egg dye. After that, I draw a symbol on each egg, to symbolize each intention. About 30 minutes before the equinox, I start balancing. I almost always get all twelve eggs balanced (and on a flat surface like the countertop ~ no cheating). I have also balanced a broom, for hours!

I would realy like to try

I would realy like to try this with my two young children. What time do u start it, or can u start it any time on this coming Friday?

Curious~ you can decorate the

Curious~ you can decorate the eggs earlier in the day, if you wish. I usually start trying to balance an hour ahead of the actual Equinox, and can usually get an entire dozen balanced. You will probably have success at any time that day, though. It's just fun to have them mostly standing at the moment of the equinox, if possible. The Equinox us at 4:45 in the afternoon where I am, which is Denver, (mountain time zone). Good luck, and Happy Spring!

P.S. the eggs have to be raw,

P.S. the eggs have to be raw, NOT cooked, and it helps if you let them stay out at room temp for about an hour before balancing.

If you can get your children

If you can get your children to stand still that long that would be amazing. Try balancing them on the small end;)

Years ago I balanced an egg

Years ago I balanced an egg on end during the equinox on my kitchen counter. I decided to leave it sit and see what happened. I left a towel wraped about 6" around it so if it fell over it would not fall on the floor. About 3 weeks later, I was in the living room, heard a noise, and the egg had fallen over. So my therory is, you can probably do it for about 1-3 weeks on either side of the equinox. I have never tested this however. I have tried to balance one at other times, and have never been able to do it except during the equinox.

Unfortunately, the tilt of

Unfortunately, the tilt of Earth does not affect gravitational pull, as gravity pulls towards the center of mass, regardless of where on the globe or the relative tilt of the Earth's orbit to the orbital plane.

You are correct that the tilt

You are correct that the tilt of the earth does not affect earth's gravity. However, every object has mass. The sun's considerable mass creates gravity strong enough to create tides in the ocean. I don't know if the egg cares, however.

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