My annual “First Day of Spring” photograph, always from the same spot. Unfortunately, they all look pretty much alike.

It’s officially spring here in the northern hemisphere where I sit. In fact, according to my calendar, the spring or vernal equinox arrived yesterday, March 20, just a bit after noon, here in northeastern Vermont, USA.


First, a quick primer on what an equinox is.  Ready?

Theoretically, it is the day in which the night lasts no longer than the day (Equi = equal; nox = night), theoretically being the operative word. The two equinoxes (March and September, aka vernal and autumnal) mark the point in which the center of the sun is directly over the equator.


Thanks to timeanddate.com for this image.


The important part is that from now until the summer solstice (June here in the north) the days will be longer, the sunshine brighter, the temperatures warmer, and the grass greener.

Unless you live in San Francisco where the grass turns brown in June.

I digress.

Vernal Equinox or Spring Equinox, (here in the northern hemisphere we can also call it the March equinox), whatever the name given (or month observed), this marks the season around the world, of renewal and reconciliation, of fresh starts and new beginnings, of rebirth and fertility.

Yes, ’tis the season of the Christian Easter, the Jewish Passover, the Buddhist Higan, the Hindu Holi, and the Muslim Nauryz.

In Japan, Higan refers to “other shore” and their weeklong Buddhist services celebrate those spirits who have reached Nirvana, who have crossed over from suffering to enlightenment, to that other shore.

Eggs are big where I am. Originally called Paschal eggs (the Latin word for Easter), these colorful orbs are standard fare in any child’s Easter basket, along with those multi-colored marshmallow peeps and that (solid please) chocolate rabbit.

We color them, hide them, hunt for them, collect them or simply remember them, depending on age.


It was in Kazakhstan where I first learned of Nauryz — a multi-day celebration of friendship and family, when debts are repaid and friendships lost are rekindled. Fresh starts and new beginnings again


[learn_more caption=”I first learned of Nauryz (NOW ruz) when I served in the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan (2004-2006). Here’s an excerpt from my memoir of those years. “] Spring, officially beginning on March 1, couldn’t come soon enough for me, and with it came Nauryz (pronounced NOW ruz), a holiday celebrated on March 22. Observed throughout Central Asia and beyond, it is perhaps the oldest holiday in recorded history, a contribution originally from the ancient Persian religion, Zoroastrianism. It’s New Year’s Day for the nearly one and a half billion Muslims around the world, and I had never heard of it.

Banned during Soviet times, Nauryz still wasn’t an official holiday in Kazakhstan, but schools, banks, and businesses across the nation closed. The entire town, it seemed, flowed down Alashakhana, despite the fact that the day was cold and cloudy with a raw wind that made being outside most unpleasant.

Food vendors lined one side of the street, selling their deep-fried samsas and freshly grilled shashlik. Soft drinks and pastries covered their tables, and I saw blue cotton candy sold in plastic bags. Now this was a holiday!

Nauryz is a happy holiday, the symbolic start of a new year. Nauryz also ushers in the “new year” in relationships. Debts are paid and family members or neighbors who have fought during the year, reconcile.

For me, Nauryz symbolized a new commitment to my students and my colleagues. I would be going to Almaty in a few weeks for a conference, and while there I would make good on my intention to find the venues through which my Kazakh students or colleagues could travel abroad.



How about you? What rituals are you observing around this year’s Spring Equinox? 

NOTE: My promised post on Empathy has both grown into two posts and been rescheduled for mid-April. Stay tuned.

NEXT WEEK: That other season in Spring.

18 Responses

  1. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    We get a science and cultural lesson, all in one. Once a teacher, always a teacher, I say. 🙂

    Your post reminds me of the families we saw carrying decorated Paschal eggs to their orthodox churches in Ukraine (2011). The designs were so ornate I asked if I could take a picture. They agreed, thank goodness.

    We hope to observe the ritual of raking and laying down mulch with the Beaman grandboys this week where the weather has turned from warm to cool and windy. We also observe Good Friday and Easter at our house. Great post!
    Marian Beaman recently posted…All In: Spring has SprungMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Ah yes, the spring ritual of the laying of the mulch. I know it well, though here in Vermont it coincides with Mothers Day. I’m wondering actually if the significance of the changes in seasons is less significant the closer one gets to the equator. Have you noticed since you moved south, Marian?
      Janet Givens recently posted…SpringMy Profile

  2. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    Good morning, Janet! We don’t celebrate anything for the vernal equinox–except happiness at it being spring. 🙂 This year, we had the first part of a nor’easter, and today we’re supposed to get a foot or more of snow. I like the idea of Nowruz, and celebrating the new year with the start of spring.
    Easter and Passover are determined by the moon after the vernal equinox, so they are sometimes in April–both have spring themes, of course. We’ll be having our big family Passover celebration at the end of the holiday this year–because that’s our crazy family!
    Merril Smith recently posted…Spring is Buried–HaibunMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Merril
      I know that Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. But I don’t know how Passover is determined. Can you fill us in?

      I’ve only been to one Passover Seder in my life. My former roommate’s parents apt in Queens. I remember an elegant meal, good conversation around the table, readings, and then dancing with her dad in the den. Good fun.
      Janet Givens recently posted…SpringMy Profile

  3. Pamela
    | Reply

    We raised our kids in the SF bay area, where Easter meant sunshine and lollipops (to paraphrase an old song). We hid Easter eggs outside the house, wore our dresses and hats and brunched with friends outside at a Napa restaurant. Warm spring memories. Now that I’m in NE, there seems to always be snow on the ground Easter weekend (particularly if Easter comes early, as it does this year). The Easter egg hunt is in the house, but the warmth of family still exists. The important thing is to remember how so many faiths celebrate this Equinox for the idea of fresh starts, renewal and rebirth, enlightenment and joy. Wonderful post, Janet. Thank you!
    Pamela recently posted…The Princess of EndoplactumMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks so much, Pam. I too was excited by that idea.
      Janet Givens recently posted…SpringMy Profile

  4. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — If you’re supposed to learn one thing new each day, I just got a week’s worth taken care of in this post. Thank you for broadening my horizons!
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted…DNA BlueprintMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      My pleasure, Laurie. 🙂
      We all learn from one another.
      Janet Givens recently posted…SpringMy Profile

  5. Joan Z. Rough
    | Reply

    Visiting nurseries and talking to all the plants is my thing as well as getting my hands dirty as I plant. But not today. Snow came and covered everything up. Next week will do!
    Joan Z. Rough recently posted…The Terracotta ArmyMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I love all those things too, Joan. Especially the getting hands dirty. Have you tried bamboo garden gloves? I love mine. I also love my backyard kitchen garden planted on top of the rock wall so I can weed it standing up. Big improvement. Enjoy your spring, even covered in snow.
      Janet Givens recently posted…SpringMy Profile

  6. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Hi Janet, I love the idea of the equinox, but have to admit, we don’t do much to celebrate it. We do follow a few traditional Easter customs, such as dyeing eggs, a nice Easter brunch w/family, an egg hunt for our girls, and baskets, etc. And we always read the short children’s book “Rechenka’s Eggs” by Patricia Polacco, which is one of my favorites. But as for rebirth and fertility, my shop is always packed with seedlings this time of year in preparation for my vegetable garden, and this year, we’re brooding three new chicks 🙂
    Tim Fearnside recently posted…One Big LieMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Sounds like quite a few traditions there, Tim. I imagine your girls love coloring eggs and I love all tales of reading the same story each year. I hadn’t heard of that book and will now check it out. And congratulations on the chicks. Hope you find them fun. I’m counting the days now until I can let mine out again. They’ve been inside since Nov 11
      Janet Givens recently posted…SpringMy Profile

  7. […] SPRING shared by Janet […]

  8. Ritu Bhathal
    | Reply

    Can’t say we celebrate the equinox as such but I sure welcome Spring!
    Fascinating post 😊

  9. […] Spring […]

    | Reply

    Loved your wite up on spring. Yes Janet. In India we celebrate Holi, the festival of colours in the beginning of spring. The plants get new leaves, flowers bloom, grass is greener, sky more clear and blue(less bcz of pollution). Perfect weather condition. We all love this season the most.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I’m so glad I Holi correctly, Reena. And thrilled to have someone from India reading my blog. Welcome. Next time you comment, be sure to check that little box for CommentLuv so my other readers can find your blog and your yummy Indian recipes.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Mud SeasonMy Profile

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