First Day of Spring 2019: The Spring Equinox

Celebrate the Vernal Equinox and The Start of Spring!

February 7, 2019
Welcome Spring Equinox

The spring equinox (also called the March equinox or vernal equinox) falls on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, at 5:58 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?

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 Equinox

For the first time in nearly 40 years, the spring equinox will occur on the same day as March’s Full Worm Moon. The last time that these two events landed on the same date was on March 20, 1981, though they did come close again in March 2000, separated by a span of only four hours.

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

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 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 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?

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 or our Vegetable Gardening for Beginners guide for gardening tips!

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.”

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.

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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Actually..the most accurate

Actually..the most accurate thing I found is watching the mesquite bushes (I'm from west Texas) once you see them bloom, its spring...no more frosts have ever came past that point.

I Live in ohio and it is hit

I Live in ohio and it is hit and miss here. The begining of December we had 50-70 degree weather then it was cold for a while, January was 20-70 degree weather. So far February 1st and 2nd we have had snow storms leaving 2-5 inches of snow and temperatures in the teens. In Cincinnati Ohio our motto is if you do not like the weather today wait until tomorrow!!!

it does work with the egg I

it does work with the egg I had done that many times also when from fall to winter it happens the same thing. it's pretty cool special if u make bets hehehehe... also is a nice way to teach why that happen.

Take a dozen eggs and place

Take a dozen eggs and place them in an egg carton with the pointed end straight up. Let them set for about a week. Almost 100% will stand on the large end -- the reason: The yolk will settle to the lowest part of the egg. If the egg is left in the carton with just a slight tilt, the egg will not stand. This will work at any time of year and has nothing to do with the position of the sun. In addition, the vernal equinox occurs when the sun crosses the equator -- a long way south of us in North America.

The calendar has spring in

The calendar has spring in tiny little words and if ya look it up theres nothing but loads of information eqinoxes and groundhoggs. No sense in trying to get a date of when springs supposed to be in session.

Seasons. (This applies to the

Seasons. (This applies to the Northern Hemisphere) Surely it's self-evident common sense that winter is the DARKEST quarter of the year, and summer is the LIGHTEST quarter of the year. This has nothing to do with weather. So winter last from early November to early February and summer starts in early May and ends in early August. These are roughly equivalent to the Celtic festivals of Samhain, Imbolc, Beltaine and Lughnasadh.

I have pictures of eggs

I have pictures of eggs standing on end at the vernal equinox. We stood 7 of them. I'm at 49:40N, approx. I'll look for the pics and post one. It worked for my sons and me in 1977 or 78.

As to the folklore about eggs

As to the folklore about eggs standing on end on the equinox, it is completely not true. Just a silly hold-back from days when a large proportion of people believed in astrology. Do a Google search for "bad astronomy egg" and the first link will take you to Phil Plait's website where he tells you how you can stand an egg on end on any day of the year.

From western Nebraska and,

From western Nebraska and, for me, hearing and seeing the Western Meadowlark, the Kildeer and seeing ground squirrels let me know that Spring is here to stay :o) I don't go by the Robins since we have had some stay through the winter at times.

http://www.birdjam.com/birdso

http://www.birdjam.com/birdson...

And I did hear a Kildeer yesterday morning :o) As well as seeing and hearing the Meadowlark, too ;o) Now for the ground squirrels

In Indiana, we have had a

In Indiana, we have had a very mild winter and an early spring. Out temperatures are at least 20 degrees above normal. This posing a huge dilemna. Do we plant in regards to current weather trends or go by the old farming rules of not planting before the first of May?.

I'm from NJ & the only snow

I'm from NJ & the only snow we had was in Oct. except for a dusting or two.Our roses & butterfly bushes started budding early in Feb. I really did not miss Old Man Winter! :-)

SPRING????? Here in Southern

SPRING?????
Here in Southern California it seems as if Winter has just started. 60 degrees yesterday and they say we will have the same for the next two weeks.

Here in Virginia the egg and

Here in Virginia the egg and the broom both are standing up.

We had 3 snows this year (not

We had 3 snows this year (not a lot of it either) All the tulips and iris have popped up early. Will probably have more thunderstorm than usual. Love the spring and fall of the year.

As Spring starts 20 March at

As Spring starts 20 March at 1:14 AM EDT on the East coast does that mean it officially starts at 11:14 PM in Colorado on the 19th of March?

There is also an old saying

There is also an old saying that washing your face in the morning dew the first day of Spring brings beauty:)

How do you collect the dew?

How do you collect the dew? Sounds like it would take a few ounces

This custom was always

This custom was always associated with Mayday (May 1) in England when young folks went out a-maying - going out into into the woods at night to gather bunches of the mayflowers that appear on hawthorns at that time. A lot of so-called 'greenwood' marriages took place a few months later!
Girls would go into the meadows in the morning to soak up dew with pieces of cloth and wipe their faces with them to help attract a possible husband. However, Mayday is not regarded as the first day of Spring. May is regarded as the last month of Spring, not the first of Summer, which covers the months of June, July and August.

Actually, May Day is the

Actually, May Day is the first day of Summer, traditionally. Roughly six weeks from 1 May is the Midsummer, or Summer Solstice, and six weeks later we enter August, which marked the beginning of the harvest season, with the first breads being baked from the wheat that was coming in, which is why August Eve was called Lammas of "Loaf Mass".

Here you go again, trying to

Here you go again, trying to impose your peculiar ideas on the rest of humanity. Mayday is universally regarded as a "Spring* festival in the Northern hemisphere. May is the last of the Spring months, and June the first Summer month. Try googling Mayday or consulting some well-regarded authorities.And try and get over your strange obsession with equinoxes and solstices.

I'm not sure which sources

I'm not sure which sources you're Googling, but it's fairly simple to figure out. If (approximately, as it can vary) the 21st of June is Midsummer (as you yourself have correctly stated), then the beginning of Summer would have to be the first of May, as it has been celebrated by many cultures in the Northern hemisphere for quite a long time.

As for being obsessed with the Equinoxes and Solstices, it would seem to me that you're fairly obsessed with attacking their validity.

You could try Wikipedia for a

You could try Wikipedia for a start but there are numerous others. Or you could consult any number of books written over many centuries on the subject. Where Mayday is celebrated in the Northern hemisphere it is celebrated as a Spring festival and May is a Spring, not a Summer month. It is as simple as that.
"Mid-Summer" does not imply the exact calendrical day between the beginning and end of Summer, any more than "mid-Atlantic" implies the exact mid-point between Europe and America. Most humans do not think in such precise ways. They are not computers.

Nor do most humans adapt a

Nor do most humans adapt a lopsided or haphazard approach to measuring seasonal tides.

According to Wikipedia:
"The day (May Day) was a traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian European pagan cultures. While February 1 was the first day of Spring, May 1 was the first day of summer; hence, the summer solstice on June 25 (now June 21) was Midsummer."

You apparently didn't read the article.

Now, I will be the first to admit that there are varied interpretations (just as I view Imbolc or Candlemas as the last Winter holiday in the old tradition because it falls within the Winter season, others likewise may view it as the first Spring holiday since it recognises the first stirrings of Spring within the Earth and the lengthening of days). And you are also correct in the idea that our forebears long ago, when most could not read or write and possibly did not have access to a calendar or almanac, recognised the seasonal manifestations at different times. No argument there. (Harvest Home, for example, is correctly observed in our 21st century on the Autumnal Equinox, but say a few centuries ago, especially in more remote communities, it was likely celebrated once the majority of the harvest was in... within the Autumn season, but not necessarily on a specific date.) However, those who did have access to the information and the astronomical science behind the seasonal cycles used it, just as I would think our less knowledgeable ancestors would have.

My point, again, is that while the weather in our region may not match the astronomical season, and while we may generalise the seasons with phrases such as, "Spring came late this year", scientifically the seasons manifest themselves like clockwork, astronomically, regardless of local weather patterns. Perhaps it would help to view the astronomical designations as turning points, or harbingers, of the seasonal changes, which would be reasonably accurate. After all, even though Winter begins in November, many areas are still enjoying Fall, some even with Summer-like temperatures.

I'm not saying I don't get your points, I just can't agree that the astronomical calculations which denote the seasonal changes are not scientific.

According to Wikipedia (and

According to Wikipedia (and others): May Day on May 1 is an ancient Northern Hemisphere spring festival and usually a public holiday; it is also a traditional spring holiday in many cultures.
The references to Mayday as the first day of Summer elsewhere in the article appear to be edits by people who are under the same sorts of misunderstanding as you.
I have never said that the astronomical calculations of the equinoxes and solstices are not scientific. Of course they are, even though they were originally made by pre-scientific observers. What is not scientific is defining such common terms as Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter by them when they clearly relate to quite other things. Besides the weather, they are also defined with reference to a host of other natural occurrences which do not require any knowledge of Science (even botany and zoology). When the weather and these other occurrences do not match the astronomical data we say that the season is early or late or did not happen in that year. But that does not mean that we believe the astronomical events are early or late or did not happen. To conflate the two things and say that the astronomical events "denote" the seasons as commonly understood is what is called a category error and is to be avoided, as much in the interest of Science as common sense,
But enough of this.

Well, according to the books

Well, according to the books and materials in my library, May Day is the first day of Summer, but I agree we've fenced long enough on this one, and obviously will not find a common ground. Thanks for the spirited debate, it's been a lot of fun.

I didn't see much of a winter

I didn't see much of a winter here... I'm worried that summer is going to be awful. Is there any correlation ? And just to throw this out there, my stepson came home a few weeks ago and made the broom stand up on its own... Apparently this can be done anytime of the year.

Hi I live in SE England and

Hi
I live in SE England and we too have had a very mild Winter - what worries me the most about these are all the nasty bugs which should not be here and which should die over the Winter.

Ref. the eggs scenario - should this not only happen 3 days either side of the Vernal Equinox, which is today. It was the 21st, but apparently will be the 20th for the next hundred or so years.

Finally, we are holidaying in Gatlinburg, TN for the first 2 weeks of May, any Tennesseeans out there who can tell me what the weather will be like?

PS found the threads interesting.

If Spring begins on March 20

If Spring begins on March 20 at 1:14 AM EST, does that mean it begins in MST at 11:14 pm March 19? When exactly does Spring begin in Colorado?

Having lived in both North

Having lived in both North and South Dakota, I can verify that weather in Colorado is mild, even in the winter. :)

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