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

As I learned it back in 1968

As I learned it back in 1968 in Physics 101: Gravity is a mutual attraction generated by both the earths mass and the corresponding mass of the object. Centripetal force is generated by the spin of the earth as it acts upon the mass of the object.
BTW gravity's attraction between 2 objects across space such as the sun and the earth (and the egg as well) also is a contributing factor when attempting to account for all forces acting upon the egg.
Just sayin - - -

The sun and moon both affect

The sun and moon both affect the gravity on earth. That is what influences the tidal cycles of spring to neap and back, as the sun and moon position themselves in alignment or on opposite sides of the earth. Theoretically then, the egg / broom / whatever story should be possible more often then only at the spring equinox (which happens twice annually).

So u r saying by that u

So u r saying by that u should be able to even balance 3 golf balls on top of each other, correct. About 12that of us tried that yesterday, 03/12/2012 and none were successful, so how is it that u say u can balance things easier right now? And in response to those asking about early spring...we have had an even milder winter than usual here in Knoxville this year. 70 degree weather in February is extremely nice!!!

I have 2 brooms that have

I have 2 brooms that have been standing on their own in our kitchen since last night!

Actually, one of the tests of

Actually, one of the tests of a good quality hand made broom is that it will stand up (that is - stay standing) on its own. Learned this from a fellow at a pioneer village type tourist spot.

This standing of the broom or

This standing of the broom or the egg... it is NOTHING. Any day of the year, my wife can make her broom for indefinite periods of time, to stand on its own, or flip, or even HOVER!; AND it uses no gasoline, but still takes her anywhere she wants to go!!!

To loveisinvein: Whats does

To loveisinvein:
Whats does a broom standing on end on March 01 have to do with vernal equinox lore? The vernal equinox is March 20 according to the farmers' almanac , although the actual "equal" night/ day is March 16-17. My grandpa always said to plant seedlings outdoors on st. patricks day.

In addition to the egg, you

In addition to the egg, you can also stand a broom up by itself... I must admit that it is rather freaky, but also awesome at the same time! Mine has been free standing for the past hour.

I tried both egg and broom to

I tried both egg and broom to zero sucess. Maybe a new broom would but as for the egg.........Just ain't happenin...........

You need a new broom. Only

You need a new broom. Only new brooms sweep clean.

If you have a broom that will

If you have a broom that will stand then it will stand any day of the year. The bristles disperse the weight of the broom evenly (if done correctly) and it allows the broom to balance. The suns position in the sky has no bearing on the broom. If it did this would only work on the equator at high noon.

That's really something. My

That's really something. My broom levitated all by itself for about five minutes, six inches off the floor!! Now how does science explain that??

Your a witch!

Your a witch!

Thats nice

Thats nice

Were you riding it at the

Were you riding it at the time?

...actually, technically,

...actually, technically, he'd be a Warlock.

Witches are both female and

Witches are both female and male. A warlock is something more akin to a wizard I believe.

It is my understanding that

It is my understanding that male and female witches are always called witches. A warlock is technically an "oathbreaker", something none of us good witches would wish to be called.

Witches are Witches, be they

Witches are Witches, be they male or female. As one contributer already pointed out, "warlock" means "deceiver", and the term is insulting to Witches. (And Witch is capitalised, the same as Christian, Jew, or Muslim, since it denotes one who follows the pre-Christian path of one of the Old Religions which were labeled "Witchcraft" by the early church in an attempt to discredit them. Much as was the case with Columbus and the indigenous people of America whom he labeled "Indians", the "Witches" came to wear that title with pride over time.)

How does science explain your

How does science explain your broom levitating? Easy. It's called hallucinations, probably brought on by delusional, "magical thinking". It layman's terms it means your crazy.

I just tried the broom.

I just tried the broom. Couldn't believe it!! I had never heard of this before just a few minutes ago. I was AMAZED!!! I of course took pictures and then the broom fell down. I had to have proof of that broom standing on it's own to show someone. I really don't care why, I just want someone I know to see it.

Pages