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.”

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

Leave a Comment

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. :)

Eggs upright! - all across

Eggs upright! - all across America! I put all 12 up, 3 of them standing on my cutting board, the others on the electric burner os my stove inspired by the almanac pic. 2 friends sent pics of theirs on flat shiny surfaces, another friend on her stove, my mom's in the corner of the tile, another on the tile floor. I also held it straight up & down in my hand. I could really feel it's energy pulling it into perfect balance. Don't give up! I couldn't quit once I got started. Where do I post all the pictures?

To address the misconception,

To address the misconception, you can stand an egg on its head any time of the year. The seasons have absolutely nothing to do with it at all. It just depends on how flat your surface is how nicely shaped the egg is.

Our broom stands up in our

Our broom stands up in our broom closet until someone pulls it out and uses it. On the other hand, what came first, the spring equinox or the egg?

i stood an egg up and it

i stood an egg up and it stayed for a lil while then fell over. the broom works great tho. the eggs should balance as so when the equinox comes closer as the force would be stronger. so if you havent had any luck just be a lil patient.

I have never in my life been

I have never in my life been able to balance anything and as the above post states... The broom and the egg are still standing beside me as I st here at the bar. I am in the Panhandle of Florida and its not March 20th however the objects still stand. I will continue to try this and see what happens! FIRM BELIEVER!!!

That is awesome! my son is

That is awesome! my son is trying to get our broom to stand on end now, lol. We are testing it here in s.e. oklahoma. Will let you know the outcome later today.

My 12 yr old daughter and I

My 12 yr old daughter and I tried the broom and egg "trick" earlier tonight after all the buzz posted on FB. Well...it worked!! And they are BOTH still standing in my litchen as I type! I've tried this before today and it never worked. I'm a believer!! :-)

I live on hour north of KC

I live on hour north of KC Missouri. My fiance saw all the posts about the broom and egg so he tried it...and our broom and egg have been standing on end for the past hour...also my broom is a slanted one to sweep out corners..so there is no way it could ever do this on it's own..it's top heavy...creepy...I have friends in NY state that tried it but no luck..too bad its really neat to see. :)

My friend asked me what all

My friend asked me what all the pictures in Facebook were about standing brooms, and I said I don't know. We tried the broom outside, and it worked. We tried the eggs inside and the broom inside and it worked. Anyone feeling the magic?

My friends broom is standing

My friends broom is standing in her bathroom. And has been for hours but my broom wont and niether did the eggs that I tried to stand on end. Hmm wierd

does not need to be a new

does not need to be a new perfect broom. I've done it with my decade old beaten up broom.

please explain to me how to

please explain to me how to get the broom to balance on its own because im going to the store just to buy a brand new broom to try this because it seems very interesting.

I stood 2 brooms up today,

I stood 2 brooms up today, Neither were new, both were angled brooms, one stood for almost 3 hours and I had to leave and couldn't leave it standing at work, the other stood until the baby knocked it down. And could easily be stood back up. IDK Y but it works.

I don't understand how the

I don't understand how the tilt of the earth can make an egg stand vertically. Perhaps I'm missing something...I understand that the egg in the photo is standing because of the crease of whatever it's on, but I still think that this may actually be possible (despite the fact that I haven't tried it yet. I just don't fully understand HOW. But maybe we don't need to understand...

Well, it's really just

Well, it's really just folklore. The premise is that an egg will balance on the vernal and autumnal equinox because the Sun is crossing the equator and that having the center of the Earth aligned with the gravitational pull of the Sun makes it easier to balance any object. It may be that you can balance eggs any day of the year. You may want to try it and pick a day!

I figured it might have

I figured it might have something to do with the equator, but I was never really sure. I guess I'll just have to try it some time.

I never could understand that

I never could understand that folklore myself. Gravity is generated by the spin of the earth and not the pull of the sun. If the Sun's pull influenced the ability of the egg to stand up, then it would only hold at the equator where it is perpendicular. In other parts of the world as you move up the curvature, the sun's pull would move from perpendicular.

Actually, gravity is

Actually, gravity is generated from the center of any reasonably large body (Sun, Earth, moon, etc.) When the earth spins, it causes centripedal force which causes winds, among other things

Yes! And the interaction of

Yes! And the interaction of the Sun and Moon causes tides. Thus a perpendicular egg would be due to tidal forces, among others.

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