“Equinox” comes from the Latin “equal night.” An equinox occurs when the Sun crosses the celestial equator, making the length of time of daylight equal to (or nearly equal to) the length of nighttime.
Due to the sun's angle and path across the sky during an equinox, days are longer than nights the further you are from the equator. Furthermore, the sun takes longer to rise and set farther from the equator because it does not set straight down - it moves in a horizontal direction.
Cultures around the world mark the vernal equinox in different way. Here’s just a few:
- The March equinox marks the first day of various calendars including the Iranian calendar and the Bahá'í calendar.
- The Jewish Passover usually falls on the first full moon after the Northern Hemisphere vernal equinox, although occasionally (7 times every 19 years) it will occur on the second full moon.
- World Storytelling Day is a global celebration of the art of oral storytelling, celebrated every year on the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere, the first day of autumn equinox in the southern.
- In Annapolis, Maryland, boatyard employees and sailboat owners celebrate the spring equinox with the Burning of the Socks Festival. Traditionally, the boating community wears socks only during the winter. These are burned at the approach of warmer weather, which brings more customers and work to the area. Officially, nobody then wears socks until the next equinox.
- Wiccans and many other Neopagans hold religious celebrations of "Ostara" on the spring equinox.
- In Japan, (March) Vernal Equinox is an official national holiday, and is spent visiting family graves and holding family reunions.