There are two equinoxes every year – in March and September – when the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is nearly equal. Seasons are opposite on either side of the equator, so the equinox in March is also known as the "spring equinox" in the northern hemisphere. However, in the southern hemisphere, it's known as the "autumnal (fall) equinox".
On the equinox, night and day are nearly exactly the same length – 12 hours – all over the world. This is the reason it's called an "equinox", derived from Latin, meaning "equal night".
However, even if this is widely accepted, it isn't entirely true. In reality equinoxes don't have exactly 12 hours of daylight.
The March equinox occurs the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator – from south to north. This happens either on March 19, 20 or 21 every year. On any other day of the year, the Earth's axis tilts a little away from or towards the Sun. But on the two equinoxes, the Earth's axis tilts neither away from nor towards the Sun.
In the northern hemisphere the March equinox marks the start of spring and has long been celebrated as a time of rebirth. Many cultures and religions celebrate or observe holidays and festivals around the March equinox, like the Easter and Passover.
Equinoxes – along with solstices – have been celebrated in cultures all over the world for as long as we have written history. One of the most famous ancient Spring equinox celebrations was the Mayan sacrificial ritual by the main pyramid in Chichen Itza, Mexico.
The snake of sunlight
The main pyramid – also known as El Castillo – has four staircases running from the top to the bottom of the pyramid's faces, notorious for the bloody human sacrifices that used to take place here.
The staircases are built at a carefully calculated angle which makes it look like an enormous snake of sunlight slithers down the stairs at the precise moment of the equinox.
The Mayan calendar was very precise in this respect, but today the Mayan calendar is most famous for ending exactly at 11:11 UTC on the 2012 December Solstice .
March Equinox in Montpelier, Vermont, U.S.A. is on
Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 12:57 PM EDT (Change city)
March Equinox in Universal Coordinated Time is on
Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 16:57 UTC
The end of March is the focus for a number of religious and traditional celebrations. As the sun appears to cross the earth's equator on the 20th or 21st of March, entering the Zodiacal sign of Aries, day and night will be equal in length.
Flowers: Lilies, daffodils, crocus, tulips; snowdrops
Incense: Jasmine; rose; sandalwood
Decorations: Spring Flowers; colored eggs; baskets; ribbons
Colors: Yellow; pink; light blue; light orange; yellow-green; lavender; green and brown
A Spring Prayer
What once was will never be.
I'm making room for the new me.
Be gone, Be gone!
Let me feel, let me see,
Now reborn in positivity.
As I hatch into Spring,
Let all good things now come in.