There are only two times during the year when day and night are equal, or as close to equal as they ever get. These two days are called the Vernal and Autumnal Equinox and occur on or near March 21 and September 21 respectively.
The Vernal Equinox, which this year occurs on March 20, is also known as the first day of spring and is celebrated in a variety of ways in many parts of the world. The celebrations of Ostara, Easter, Passover, St. Patrick’s Day, Nowruz, Holi, Hana Matsuri, and numerous others, take place around this time of year.
Following the Vernal Equinox, the nights begin to shorten and days lengthen, bringing the rebirth of life to the northern hemisphere. As the days lengthen, plants begin to flourish, and animals, even human ones, emerge from a long winter’s isolation and revel in the life-giving light of the sun.
The egg is probably the best-known symbol of the Vernal Equinox. It represents the promise of new life and the potential of all living things. Besides traditional Western celebrations, in China, anyone who can get an egg to stand on end during the Equinox is said to bring good luck upon themselves.
In the Celtic tradition new life is celebrated in the guise of the Maiden and the Green Man. Wearing green and giving gifts of brightly colored eggs, honey, and bread are still honored. Note that for the Irish, March 17 is celebrated as St. Patrick’s Day, with the traditional wearing of the green.
In less industrialized ages, the village would gather on the day of the Equinox to celebrate the balance that brings about not only the growing season but freedom from seclusion suffered during the winter months, and to celebrate the promise of everlasting life. Some traditions have carried over to today with little change, such as brightly colored eggs hidden for children to search out; the golden egg, representing the sun itself, is still the ultimate treasure.
Setting aside our differences and finding a balance and acceptance of the basic turning of the seasons is one way to create harmony and peace between cultures and religions. Indeed, in Siberia, the Spring Equinox is celebrated by making one’s peace with everyone.
The Celtic Wheel of the Year holds all traditions as valid, all worship as sacred, all seasons as a vital part of life. When celebrating the Spring Equinox, one need only accept that life is ever-renewing, that past oppressions can be overcome, that the gift of life is sweet and nourishing, that balance can be achieved – that harmony can be a natural, if impermeant, state of being. Welcome spring by wearing green, taking notice of new growth, embracing the moments of balance in your life, feeling the change in the length of the day, noting where the sun rises and sets, and by exchanging sweetness with those of your village, whether that be local or global. We are all united by the changing seasons of life.