Understanding the Equinox
During the Earth’s revolution around the sun, the sun comes right above the equator twice every year. These moments are called equinoxes and take place around 20 or 21st of March and 22 or 23rd of September. In literary terms, equinox means ‘equal night’ as the day and night is approximately equal in length across every corner of the world at the time of equinox occurrence.
The March Equinox
This takes place as the Northern Hemisphere begins tilting towards the sun. This leads to longer and sunnier days. The March equinox is called the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. This is because it hints at the start of spring. ‘Vernal’ means as new or as fresh as the spring.
The September Equinox
The autumnal equinox is the name given to the September equinox as it signals the first day of autumn or fall. When our Northern Hemisphere begins tilting towards the sun during spring, Southern Hemisphere begins tilting away from the sun. This signals the onset of autumn. Hence, the March equinox is the autumnal equinox in our Southern Hemisphere. Likewise, the September equinox becomes the vernal equinox here.
Celebrations around the Vernal Equinox
The vernal equinox has always been a reason to rejoice for people across centuries. The ancient cultures saw this equinox as a signal for their food supplies to return soon. Early Egyptians even went on to construct the Great Sphinx in such a way that it always points directly towards the point where the sun rises on the day of the vernal equinox. It also holds significance in Christianity as Easter is always on the first Sunday right after the full moon post vernal equinox. (See What Is Earth’s Core Made Of?)
The Magic of Balancing Eggs During Vernal Equinox
If you are surrounded by the elderly during the vernal equinox, you might end up hearing them talk of a magical occurrence that takes place only on that day. Legend has it that the vernal equinox possesses astronomical properties which are extremely special as they can make balancing eggs on end possible. Well, there lays no truth in this legend. You can balance eggs on end during any given time of the year. All you need are eggs and a hell of a lot of patience. Vernal equinoxes have nothing special or magical that makes this phenomenon possible only on that particular day.
This legend started doing the rounds probably because the Chinese used to balance eggs on end at the time of the vernal equinox. As the day and night are of equal length at that time, maybe that’s why the Chinese picked a balanced egg for symbolizing the astronomical phenomenon. This is just a belief and nobody knows for sure how these balancing eggs on end during vernal equinox became a thing.
What is the Vernal Equinox?
What happens on the vernal equinox? Two moments in the year when the Sun is exactly above the Equator and day and night are of equal length.