When does the Spring begin?

swallow 6664 by Nesster (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Spring is already in the air. Everything is green all around, and you can see on some trees the first tiny green leaves springing to life on branches that have stood bare for months. The swallows are coming back. It is amazing how they always appear exactly on the first really hot day. Nature is waking up. It feels like Spring it at our doorstep. But when does it officially begin? Meteorologically it’s on March first. Over the month, the average temperatures increases by 10 degrees. Astronomically is on the Spring Equinox, also called the March Equinox or Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere (In the Southern Hemisphere it is fittingly called the Autumnal Equinox). This is the time when the sun crosses the celestial equator from north to south along the ecliptic, which is the imaginary plane created by the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. The Spring Equinox may occur on March 19,20 or 21 every year. This year,  2017, the Spring Equinox falls on March 20.

As it has always been through history, people and cultures join nature in celebrating the new awakening. It’s wonderful to see just how many events around the world celebrate the equinox. Here’s just a small taste:

Los Angeles

Griffith Observatory Spring Equinox Presentation

Griffith Park Observatory - 2014 by kla4067 (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Griffith Park Observatory – 2014 by kla4067 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Many ancient buildings and megalithic sites have features that align to celestial events. The Griffith observatory has architectural features that do the same. The Gottlieb Transit Corridor, an enormous glass-walled passageway, envelopes visitors in the motions of the Sun, Moon, and stars across the sky. When standing on the West Terrace in the late afternoon you can see the sun’s light slide along across the straight line embedded on the terrace surface as the sun sets.
The Griffith Observatory holds free public presentations marking the winter and summer solstice as well as spring and fall equinox. This Spring Equinox, on March 20th, there will be brief talks at local noon (12:50 pm) in the Gottlieb Transit Corridor, and sunset (6:50 pm) on the West Terrace.

Scottsdale, AZ

Canal Convergence | Spring Equinox

Moonflower by HockeyholicAZ (CC BY 2.0)
Moonflower by HockeyholicAZ (CC BY 2.0)

As part of Canal Convergence events which celebrate of the Valley’s unique canal culture and history, the annual Canal Convergence Spring Equinox is a free four-day festival, celebrating art, music and more. The event will include an Artisan Market urban marketplace along with hands-on activities and art installations throughout the downtown Scottsdale area that will glow through the night. Parts of the Scottsdale Waterfront will be transformed into a light-up playground with IMPLUSE: an installation of 15 illuminated seesaws.

Chicago, IL

Your own ‘Chicagohenge’ Viewing

Chicagohenge 9 days early by Steven Vance (CC BY 2.0)
Chicagohenge 9 days early by Steven Vance (CC BY 2.0)

Any city built on a grid probably has a few days of the year when the sun is in perfect alignment with the street grid. Chicago’s street grid is set in the perfect alignment with the rising and setting sun during a very special time: the spring and fall equinox. When standing between any east-west streets you can see the sun framed within Chicago’s skyline. The best area is probably buildings in the Loop area.

Carterton, New Zealand

Legends of the Equinox  at Stonehenge Aotearoa

Stonehenge Aotearoa by chrisjtse (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Stonehenge Aotearoa by chrisjtse (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Stonehenge Aotearoa is a full-scale working adaptation of Stonehenge that was built in the Wairarapa countryside, a short distance from Wellington, New Zealand. What is so unique about it is that it is an adaptation, not a replica. It is a complete and working structure designed for its precise location in New Zealand. On March 20th they will hold the Legends of the Equinox presentation, exploring the ancient stories and meanings of the Equinox and together see the Sun set on the Equinox Heel Stone.

Find your own equinox celebration, or just go out and enjoy nature. What signs do you see around you of the arrival of Spring? Share your insights and photos!