March 20 marks the beginning of the spring season in the Northern Hemisphere, referred to as the ‘spring equinox’. The word ‘equinox’ is derived from Latin and roughly translates as ‘equal night’. In other words, spring equinox is the time of the year when both day and night time extends for 12 hours each. This happens twice a year, the second instance is September 23, the beginning of autumn.
Scientifically speaking, spring equinox is the moment when the earth’s equator passes through the centre of the sun. Roughly this takes place on March 19, 20 or 21 every year. The spring equinox is different from the summer and winter solstice when the sun reaches the highest or lowest point in relation to the equator, marking the longest or shortest day.
The spring equinox is marked by celebrations across the northern hemisphere as a moment of rebirth and rejuvenation. In India, the festival of Holi is celebrated coinciding with the spring equinox, or the moment when winter ends and spring begins, marking the victory of good over evil. The celebration of Easter among Christians takes place during this time of the year as it coincides with the celebration of the rebirth of Jesus. The festival of nowruz is celebrated in Iran during the spring equinox, marking the beginning of a new year. As per an ancient Persian belief, the mythological king of Persia took over the throne on this day. In Japan too, both the equinoxes around the year are celebrated as holidays when they worship their ancestors.