An equinox is a seasonal event that occurs when the earth’s tilt is at zero which means the north pole is not pointing towards or away from the sun.
Understanding The Equinox
The equinox occurs twice a year.
On either of the equinoxes, promptly at noon, the sun will be directly above you.
The equinox is the middle point of solstices. Both are boundaries within the seasonal path the earth travels around the sun.
Scientists deemed it important to establish these seasonal boundaries in order to know when a season was approaching as well as a way to know what direction the earth’s axis was at.
These seasonal boundaries became established as:
How did earth get a tilted axis?
The theory behind earth sitting on a tilted axis is that billions of years ago, a planet crashed into earth causing it to tilt.
Regardless of theory or scientific fact on the origin of the tilt, the tilt is a blessing in disguise.
If it wasn’t for the tilt, earth would have extreme hot and cold and no seasonal changes. It would be quite miserable!
Interestingly, most planets in the galaxy also have equinoxes.
However, the specific tilt of that planet and orbital characteristics are different than earth’s.
Saturn, for instance, has rather dramatic equinoxes that are 15 years apart and they last for 4 days.
During Saturn’s equinoxes, the rings around the planet will line up with the sun in razor-thin fashion. It’s quite remarkable.
Equinox Celebrations Around The World
The ancient Mayan culture celebrates the Spring Equinox with sacrifices.
El Castillo is a pyramid in Chichen Itza, Mexico, the four staircases at the four sides of the pyramid is built with such precision that a "snake of sunlight" would slither down the staircases at sunrise on the day of the equinox.
The Japanese celebrate both the spring and the autumn Equinox with a celebration of Higan, during which they believe that the spirits of the dead pass into Nirvana.
During the six-day event, the Japanese go to the graves of loved ones, to clean and decorate the graves and remember the dead.
The Iranian New Year festival of “Nowruz” is celebrated on Equinox by people of Persian descent.
It was also officially recognized by the United Nations as an International holiday in 2010.
Nowruz is marked by mythical figures and the Iranian version of Santa Claus.
Seven symbolic foods called “Haft-Sin” are served which includes sprouts, sweet pudding, date-like fruits, garlic, apples, red sumac fruit, and vinegar.
The Jewish celebrate Autumnal Equinox with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Koreans celebrate the Autumnal Equinox with a 3-day Korean Thanksgiving feast called Chuseok.
Boaters in Annapolis, Maryland celebrate the Vernal Equinox by burning socks.
The “burning of socks” signifies the approaching warmer season where one does not have to wear socks.
It can safely be said that we need our seasons not just for the sake of celestial predisposition but we love seasons because they come with celebrations, traditions, and hope.
To think of what earth would like without the prospect of snow, spring flowers, autumn flowers and warm weather for ice cream would be dismal.
Perry, P (2018 March 18) What is an equinox? 10 need-to-know facts, Big Think, Retrieved from:
Willet, H. (2015 September 23) Who, What, Why: What is An Equinox, BBC News Magazine, Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-34334712
Framke, C (2018 March 20) Persian New Year, or Nowruz, explained: The holiday of spring and renewal, celebrated by millions of people worldwide, dates back thousands of years. Vox News, Retrieved from:https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/3/19/17138516/persian-new-year-nowruz-explained
(n.d.) Equinox, National Geographic Society, Retrieved from: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/equinox/