The March equinox occurs around March 20, when the axis of the Earth has no inclination to or from the sun. This equinox has helped establish many calendar systems, including the number of days in the year. The March equinox typically establishes the beginning of spring. During this time, the sun will shine on the equator and the time of days and nights will be equal—equinox means “equal night” in Latin. It is sometimes called the vernal equinox.
The March equinox has been celebrated by cultures since ancient times, as even primitive civilizations still monitored astrological activity. These celebrations and festivals often deal with the theme of rebirth, and calendars were often designed around the activity of the March equinox, including the Persian calendar, which has the year starting with the vernal equinox. Older celebrations include:
- The Mayans held a celebration and sacrificial ritual during this time. Their most well-known pyramid, El Castillo, held these rituals, was designed to give the illusion of a snake slivering down the pyramid with the sunlight of the equinox.
- Dísablót, a Norse pagan celebration, honored female sprits with feasting and religious rituals.
- Other pagan celebrations took place during this equinox, as many elements of the tradition follow the cycle of the sun.
- Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, is celebrated by eating wheat, buying clothes, and cleaning.
- Higan is a Buddhist holiday celebrated in Japan, features religious reflection and time off from work.
In modern times, many celebrate World Storytelling Day, coinciding with the pagan tradition of storytelling. In Annapolis, boat workers celebrate the Burning of the Socks festival, marking the time that the boatyard workers do not need to wear winter socks anymore. Many modern observances are astrological in theme, with people gathering to watch the sun setting and rising. Contemporary paganism celebrates Ostara, the new year on the Zodiac calendar. Celebrators decorate eggs, as festivities often revolve around the theme of fertility.