The 20th of March sees the return of the Spring Equinox, a day that marks the beginning of spring and an indicator that the days will once again begin to be longer than the night.
The word equinox is derived from the Latin equi (meaning ‘equal’) and nox (meaning ‘night’) and this phenomenon occurs twice a year, around the 20th of March and the 22nd of September.
The spring and autumn equinoxes mark the only two points in the year when the equator is the closest part of Earth to the Sun, with both the northern and southern hemispheres sharing sunlight almost equally. This also marks the point where the two hemispheres swap over.
In theory, this means that everywhere on the planet should get approximately 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness on those days.
While the solstices are more widely associated with ritualistic tradition and celebration, the equinoxes also carry meaning for many people too.
Early civilisations found the spring equinox to be a reliable way to keep track of the seasons, with cultures today paying tribute the same way their ancestors used to.
In the UK, Stonehenge is the most famous meeting point on the spring equinox, and it is one of the only four occasions of the year when there is open access to the actual stones of the Henge. For Druids and Pagans, the ancient stones are a place of worship, and they will travel there to celebrate each year. Traditionally, the festivities start from first light when the sun rises over the stones and what follows is lots of music, dancing, and rituals.
It isn’t just here in the UK where people celebrate the spring equinox, celebrations happen all over the world. The Pyramid of Kukulcan at Chichen Itza in Mexico is also a popular place to gather and view the equinox. When the light hits the pyramid, it casts a shadow which creates an image of a giant snake, symbolizing Kukulcan, a feathered snake God of the ancient Mayans. It appears to crawl down the side of the temple until it eventually joins a serpent-head statue at the bottom of the pyramid.
So, as we welcome the return of longer days and shorter nights, don’t forget the clocks go forward by 1 hour at 1am on the 27th of March – the last Sunday of the month.