First Day of Spring 2019: The Spring Equinox

Celebrate the Vernal Equinox and The Start of Spring!

March 20, 2019
Welcome Spring Equinox

In 2019, spring equinox (also called the March equinox or vernal equinox) falls on Wednesday, March 20. This event marks the astronomical first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Before you try to balance that egg, read this!

When is the First Day of Spring?

Spring begins with the vernal equinox, which always occurs on March 19, 20, or 21. 

Year Spring Equinox (Northern Hemisphere)
2019 Wednesday, March 20, at 5:58 P.M. EDT
2020 Thursday, March 19, at 11:49 P.M. EDT
2021 Saturday, March 20, at 5:37 A.M. EDT

A Full Moon on the Spring Equinox!

The last time the Full Worm Moon happened less than one day of the March equinox was 19 years ago, in 2000, and the next time will be 11 years from now, in 2030.

But that’s not all: March’s full Moon will also be a supermoon, meaning that it will be slightly larger than most of the other full Moons this year.

What an extra-bright way to greet spring!!

See Bob Berman’s new article, Full Moon on the Spring Equinox!

What Does the Equinox Mean?

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 the increasing sunlight hours, with earlier dawns and later sunsets. See your personalized Sun rise and set calculator.

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

What Happens on 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 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, 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: No, but they are close to equal. 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 its end on the equinox. Is this true?

A:  This egg folklore became popular in 1945 following a LIFE article about the spring adage. “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,” John Millis, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Anderson University. “The ancient Chinese celebrated the first day of spring about six weeks earlier than the equinox” so it’s not just on the equinox itself.

As with most folklore, it’s only partly true. It should be balance an egg on its end but also 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 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. (Tip: You’ll probably have better luck balancing the egg if you use a rough surface or 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 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?

To us, 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!

  • Are the worms emerging from the earth? (The March Full Moon is called “The Full 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 is what triggers birds to sing? Cool, eh? Enjoy our Bird Songs page.
  • Are the daffodils poking up their heads? 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.
  • Can you feel the Sun getting stronger? The longer days bring high temperatures. Both we and the animals around us strip off our clothes and heavy coats!
  • Are you getting itchy to get outdoors? March is time to start gardens and sow seeds in many regions. See the best planting dates according to your local frost dates or 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; 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.”

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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.

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

Bounce

Every year on the fist day of spring my kids have dropped a raw egg in the grass. It won't break - unless you hit a rock of course.

That sounds like a fun

That sounds like a fun learning moment... I’m gonna let the kids try this today after school!! Wish us luck!

Thanks for all the great

Thanks for all the great information a treasure trove !! awesome

I think I'm your Uncle Dean

Hi Gary , Do you still live North of Evansville, Ind. ????

Standing

Brooms will stand by themselves, straight up. A friend told me this, I thought he was nuts. Till the first day of Spring, it worked. Has to be a straight cut broom, not a slanted one. It will stand for about five minutes.

Picture

The picture of the blue bird shown on the Equinox show is NOT a Robin!!! It's a Bluebird!!

robin

Yes, it is a robin. It's a European robin versus an American robin. Not a bluebird. It's the first day of spring in Europe, too.

Balancing Eggs on the Equinox

I was able to do this once back in 1986 in Brooklyn Heights, NY. On the third try, a raw egg stayed up - it stayed like that for a good 5 hours. It was very neat.

Found the first spider of the

Found the first spider of the year in my house. It must be spring.

midpoint, not start

Solstices and equinoxes are midpoints, not starts, of the seasons, especially from an agriculture point of view (for most heavily populated areas). Spring started in early Feb here, and is well on its way to being in full spate by the equinox. After the summer solstice, the days start getting shorter. The opposite for winter solstice.

Thank you! Yes -- HAPPY

Thank you! Yes -- HAPPY MIDDLE OF SPRING!! Just like the famous MidSummer is around June 20th!!

If one pays attention to the sun, one will see how strong the rays have become since Feb 8.... I've been FULLY enjoying this Spring for weeks! The warm weather is a nice addition this year - all flowers blooming, trees leafing ... that's a nice early coincidence, but really it's all about the sunlight.... and I REALLY feel that!

I think we do the population at large a disservice by saying that Spring starts this week and Summer doesn't start til June 20th ~ because by then we're already 6 weeks into the solar season.

Once I learned this I finally figured out why I used to feel so sad in Aug/Sept ~ because that time is really FALL, not summer! (Pay attention to the sunlight, you'll feel the difference!) It's also good to know winter starts in November --- it definitely explains the darkness!

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.

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