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

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The good old Earth, each year

The good old Earth, each year it renews its promise to bring its mildness and sweetness and life to us. The dear Earth.

North TX has experienced a

North TX has experienced a 'normal' winter, seasonal snow, sleet and rain but for me, has been more uncomfortable than usual (debates are whether more or less humidity affects one's tolerence to cold.) We've had some warm days tho' with robins arriving, black birds migrating, and several pairs of cardinals returning and nesting, signaling spring is closer for our part of the state. Experts recommending holding off applying fertilizer since ground hasn't warmed up for growing because of fewer sunny winter days.

In my neck of the woods, you

In my neck of the woods, you know that Spring is here when you see your first chipmunk. Last year it was March 17. Hope it's sooner than that this year!

Around here, in North Texas

Around here, in North Texas near the panhandle, I know it's nearly spring when my grape hyacinths show green leaves and start to send up shoots. We've got green but no shoots just yet. Might get another cold snap or two this year. Or so say the hyacinths, lol.

Okie Girl I live southeast of

Okie Girl I live southeast of you in Arkansas and we are still having to bring in the brass monkey at night.

The moon controls the oceans,

The moon controls the oceans, who is controlling the broom . Better call ghost busters hehehe

You can balance a raw egg on

You can balance a raw egg on its wide end any day of the year, not just the equinox.

The 16th of March has a day

The 16th of March has a day length of 11:59 hours. This is about as close as you can get to equal day/night length and should rightly be called the vernal equinox. I am wondering if the 20th is just a traditional date for simplicity's sake and is really not the scientific equinox!

I noticed this also. Were

I noticed this also. Were there any replies?

I chuckled at the photo of

I chuckled at the photo of the American robin in signs of spring. Most American robins do not migrate very far; they simply shift locally due to a change in their feeding habits (from worms in your yards to the berries on trees). If you want to find them in the dead of winter you have only to go so far as the deep woods nearby.

For birds, a better sign of impending spring in most locations is to visit your local marsh and see if there are Red-winged Blackbirds. They're truly long-distance migratory birds that are easily identifiable by sight and song.

To, the robin is still a

To, the robin is still a great symbol of spring. Though some varieties will spend the whole winter in their breeding range, many do not. And those that stay tend to roost up in trees and not spend much time in the yard. So, when you see them tugging at worms in your yard, THAT is a symbol of spring.

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.

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