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.

equinox_full_width.png
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!

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Anything that has multiple

Anything that has multiple points of contact with a hard surface should be able to be balanced and be freestanding. A broom with hard bristles should be easier to balance than one with soft pliable bristles. Also, the juxtaposition of the handle to the bristles can make a difference but should be able to be overcome. I fail to see the sun's affect on this issue except if its done outdoors and the heat of the sun softens the bristles. You also have to factor in air movement and direction in order to overcome the effect this may have on the freestanding broom. The story of the broom levitation is remarkable, if true, but I also wonder what he was smoking at the time.

On the first day of Spring, a

On the first day of Spring, a male bluebird kept repeatedly coming to my sliding glass patio door and pecking at it. I hope he was the "bluebird of happiness."

Indeed it is,a sign from

Indeed it is,a sign from Heaven....it means that you and me are blessed chosen creatures of angels above,who take this appearance of peacefull birds for the bestowed ones that receive such honorable visitors,I have one too,cames every morning for seed birds I place at my window...but beware of black birds crowling that crah,crah crah sound...they mean disgrace,defeat,pestilences and perils aproaching....a good prayer to saint Anselm will scary these menaces away,back to darknesses...

Nay, the dark birds are as

Nay, the dark birds are as beautiful as canaries. They signal nothing evil nor ominous nor pestilential... that is Hollywood and rumor. Ravens and Crows in particular are very intelligent birds, Corvids, who are clever, can imitate many other sounds, and solve puzzles. The day that several arrived on my apple tree, got my attention by caw caw! then said as plain as day, "hello?!" was to me the same blessing as pretty birds are to some. They come back and are very gentle, they eat hard boiled eggs, peanuts, and cooked chicken, and dunk them in the birdbath. One made an eggdrop soup out of it (I had to put boiling water, it was 15 below, it didn't stay hot long!) They hold an intelligence to the level of roughly a 3 year old child. And... they chase off the hawks that will prey upon your songbirds at feeders. So be kind to the dark beauties, they have a place here for us in their hearts too.

I got up this morning, I

I got up this morning, I believe I dusted my broom

Willy, you may not be aware

Willy, you may not be aware of the origin of "dusting my broom". The blues song actually goes: I got up this morning and I believe I'll dust my broom." It is my understanding that "DUSTING ONE'S BROOM' has a sinister connotation in that it may mean a disciplinary action by a man hitting a woman with a broom for being unfaithful. I wonder how true this is... Have to look in the blues history books.

How silly,willy....I dust my

How silly,willy....I dust my broom at my wife every day,except on her birthday....it´s a way to sending strong message to remember the fragile sex where they belong: to the Master and to the kitchen...I do not know why I castigate her,but she surely does.....

No Wonder I feel so good. Its

No Wonder I feel so good. Its My Birthday and Ill cry if I want to. Have lots of Spring in my Step this morning. Good morning To All.... Have a Wonderful Day!

Happy Birthday, Drew!

Happy Birthday, Drew!

I could never balance my

I could never balance my checkbook until today (vernal equinox 2013) and I was standing in my kitchen when I did it! It must all be true. ;)

Diamonds really sparkle today

Diamonds really sparkle today but the egg trick next to the broom after morning but this was just silly as we sat and waited for the turn but it never happened so we just went back to the broom and there it was and Stacy said she saw it. Too weird...

Explain that Rick??? LOL...good luck Sean

My friend *Anna* stands

My friend *Anna* stands brooms up all the time and leaves them at the store in the middle of the aisle that way. The looks on peoples faces is awesome. So funny..

Witches can do

Witches can do that,pronouncing spells of malevolence and dreadfull scary augurs....your friend must be an Anna Konda,a terrible serpent which encarneted Satan when tempting Eve in the garden of Eden....

All your broom are belong to

All your broom are belong to us!

Somebody set us up the egg!

Somebody set us up the egg!

THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF

THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF SPRING: "Imbolc or Imbolg (pronounced i-MOLK or i-MOLG ), also called (Saint) Brighid’s Day (Irish: Lá Fhéile Bríde, Scottish Gaelic: Là Fhèill Brìghde, Manx: Laa’l Breeshey), is a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of spring. Most commonly it is held on 31 January–1 February, or halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox." THINK YOU MIGHT BE WILLING TO SET YOUR WEBSITE ARIGHT?

Hmmm, you contradict

Hmmm, you contradict yourself. You state that the beginning of spring is the Gaelic festival, but then state it's halfway between the winter solstice and the SPRING solstice. The solstice marks the actual start of spring not a festival.

Actually, no, I believe they

Actually, no, I believe they said it was halfway between the equinox and the solstice, not between the solstices. For people who follow the Celtic religions, Imbolc is one of 4 original yearly holidays, the others being Beltaine (May 1) Lughnasad (a sun/harvest festival) Aug 1 and Samhain (Halloween), Oct 31/Nov 1. This is considered by many to be Celtic New Year, instead of January 1. Notice there is one festival every 3 months, or quarterly. (Some of the other adopted Pagan holidays such as Yule, Ostara (Easter) and so on...were of Germanic/Nordic origin, however, some people celebrate them as well, but they weren't originally followed by the Celtic peoples. Sign me- student of comparative religions & mythologies Peace

The Celtic New Year is

The Celtic New Year is actually Samhain, better known now as Hallowe'en or the evening before All Hallows. Samhain marks the death of Summer and the birth of Winter, as the Celts divided their annual cycle into halves as well as quarters and cross-quarters, the two halves being Summer and Winter.

As for Imbolc, it marks the first stirrings of Spring, but remains a seasonal Winter festival (the last one prior to the Spring Equinox). Ostara or the Vernal/Spring Equinox is the first Spring festival, and May Day or Beltane is the first day of the Summer season, with the Summer Solstice being the middle or high point of the Summertime, when the Suns' energy reaches its' zenith and begins waning, with the days growing shorter and the trek moving back into Autumn, toward Winter.

To clarify this, one could view Imbolc as either a Winter or Spring festival, or both. It takes place when the Winter is still on us, but it marks the first stages of Spring, based upon the agrarian events taking place around that time, such as the lambing season, preparing for the Spring ploughing, etc.

And before I get chastised again, these are, indeed, the astronomical designations of the seasons, marked by the position of the Earth in its' annual cyclical orbit in relation to the Sun... and yes, it is scientific. The local weather is another matter entirely, and is not necessarily effected by the astronomical progression of Earth and Sun.

Nicely elaborated upon!

Nicely elaborated upon! Thankyou. Well said. As someone who's lived in both SoCalifornia (where there are practically no visible signs of season change) and moving to Colorado, where the latest snow of the year I recall was a blizzard on Memorial Day, I definitely prefer the wild variations on the latter. But that's just because I like extreme weather.

So do I, though here in

So do I, though here in Kentucky the Summer can be brutally hot... that part I'm not too fond of at all, but I do like the change of seasons and watching the garden as the changes effect it year to year. We got a decent Winter here for once in a long time (though it was late), so I'm hoping the soil will do better than it has in a while. Hope you have a great Spring and a wonderful year!

It's been anything but a mild

It's been anything but a mild winter here in central New England. January was typically very cold, and since the second week of February, we've had about 60 inches of snow. (with maybe 6-12 more inches tomorrow night). But as I write this, I calculate there's about sixty hours left of winter. And I've always said it doesn't matter half as much what it's doing outside as what the calendar says. And the calendar says it's Spring on Wednesday. Ah, Spring. Yeah, baby!

I'm living in Western KY next

I'm living in Western KY next to the Ohio River. My jonquils have been blooming for two weeks. The last two winters here have been mild and we are now designated zone 7 by the "experts" who determine these things. We were zone 6b. Global warming? Another debatable issue. I am 74 and I know the weather patterns are greatly different than they were in my youth so something IS happening on this earth.

We're in north central

We're in north central Kentucky (not far from Louisville), and I can attest to the fact that this is the first Winter that's been even remotely normal for at least two decades, based on the last fifty years or so. It's been a very welcome thing, considering that the soil quality has been steadily deteriorating, and the insect population increasing to a very noticable extent. My hope is that (a) having actually HAD Winter this year (though it started late), it will help improve the soil and kill off some of the insects and (b) that the global warming we've all witnessed is, indeed, a cyclical phenomenon rather than one caused by human recklessness.

I don't doubt that a lot of our practises are not good for the planet, especially the massive deforestation we're responsible for. But from what I've read, there have been times in history where the carbon levels have been much higher than they are now, and things went back to a colder trend. The most important thing is balance. It seems many want to take the position that warm is good and cold is bad. Nothing could be further from the truth. Each is essential in its' season, which is why the richest portion of the farm belt lies in areas which are balanced by Summer and Winter.

Crazy so many places are mild

Crazy so many places are mild and getting ready for spring I live just about an hr east of Pittsburgh and we are below average lows. We barely make it past 35 or so. Last weekend we had 2 days that were almost 50 but then right back to teens and low 20s in the am. So count your blessings guys

Here in WV two things really

Here in WV two things really speak spring to me, the peeping of the frogs on the pond and the return of the red-winged blackbird. I dearly love them both.

Hey WV, wonderful!

Hey WV, wonderful!

Azaleas are in bloom in deep

Azaleas are in bloom in deep South Georgia and the Bluebirds are more active. It's Springtime !

Greetings to all my American

Greetings to all my American cousins, from the social democratic paradise that exists on your Far North (i.e. Canada). Toronto, Ontario also had a mild winter with perhaps 1/10th the snow of New York City. I prefer the brisk, sunny days of March to the high heat and humidity of July. I beg the gods of Climate Change to keep our summer on the cool side. Warm regards (but not too warm).

Warm regards, Cousins and

Warm regards, Cousins and Cousines, our French relatives are still there! I marvel that so many folks like living so far north, yet how bizarre our winter has been when we usually get over 300 days of sunshine. In some places we were colder this year, fifteen below in Denver, more with windchill. Yesterday, 70 and the crocus finally bloom a little, many of our migrating birds have disappeared, so they must be winging their way back to you; it must be warmer right around the corner.

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