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The Vernal Equinox: A Monumental Occasion

For some, the Vernal Equinox is only perceived as the transition from winter to spring. For others, the Equinox is a prodigious phenomenon. The Vernal Equinox transpires on either March 20th or 21st and is one of the four quadrature days of the Earth's orbit, meaning that the position of the earth is at a 90 degree angle in respect to the sun. It is also one of the two days out of the year when there are 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of darkness, the only other day being the Autumnal Equinox which occurs on September 23.

For thousands of years, in a multitude of different cultures, the Vernal Equinox has been recorded and celebrated. In England, the Vernal Equinox is marked by Stonehenge which was constructed over 3000 years ago. The monoliths that occupy Stonehenge document the position of the rising sun during the Vernal Equinox. Over 4500 years ago on the Giza plateau in Egypt, the Great Sphinx was constructed. During the Vernal Equinox, the monument faces due east. The Ancient Mayan Caracol Tower and Temples of the Sun and Moon, positioned in Central America, are also aligned in positions which harmonize with the sun during the Vernal Equinox. During the Vernal Equinox in Ancient Europe, they celebrated the arrival of the goddess of spring, Ostara. Historians believe that the Christian holiday Easter was derived from this ceremony.

Nobody is positively sure why these cultures placed so much importance on the Vernal Equinox, but most historians believe it had something to do with choosing the right time of year to plant crops. In modern times, the Vernal Equinox is also celebrated in different ways by a variety of cultures. In China, the holiday known as Chunfen is celebrated on the Vernal Equinox. In Iran, the holiday referred to as Norouz occurs during the Vernal Equinox. The Equinox also marked the first Earth Day celebration in the United States in 1971.

The Vernal Equinox is a significant time in many different societies. In countries all over the world, for thousands of years, celebrations and festivals have marked this important occurrence. Although the traditions and customs may differ, the Vernal Equinox is undoubtedly a special time for us all.

B. Frey
Thu, 25 Feb 2010 15:59:25 +0000

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