When does spring start? In 2023, the official first day of spring isMonday, March 20. This date marks the “spring equinox” in theNorthern Hemisphere.What IS the spring equinox and is it always on the 20th? Before you try to balance that egg, read on to learn more—plus, enjoy ideas on how to celebrate theseason!
When Is the First Day of Spring2023?
In 2023, the March equinox happens on March 20, at 5:24 P.M. EDT. This falls on a Monday and is the astronomical beginning of the spring season in the Northern Hemisphere and the autumn season in the SouthernHemisphere.
If you thought that the spring equinox only ever occurred on March 21, you may be datingyourself. The civil calendar date of the equinox continues to shift every year.Find outwhy.
|Year||Spring Equinox (Northern Hemisphere)||Spring Equinox (Southern Hemisphere)|
|2022||Sunday, March 20, at 11:33 A.M. EDT||Thursday, September 22*|
|2023||Monday, March 20, at 5:24 P.M. EDT||Saturday, September 23|
|2024||Tuesday, March 19, at 11:06 P.M. EDT||Sunday, September 22|
|2025||Thursday, March 20, at 5:01 A.M. EDT||Monday, September 22|
*Due to time zone differences, this equinox will technically occur on the next day in some parts of theworld.
What Is the SpringEquinox?
In the Northern Hemisphere, the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere (also called the Marchequinox or vernal equinox across the globe)occurs when the Sun crosses the celestial equator going south to north. It’s called the “celestial” equatorbecause it’s an imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator. Imagine standing on the equator; the Sun would pass directly overhead on its waynorth.
After the spring equinox, the Northern Hemispherebegins to be tilted moretoward the Sun, resulting inincreasingnumber of daylight hours, withearlier dawns and later sunsets!(In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the opposite: the March equinoxmarks the start of autumn, as the Southern Hemisphere begins to be tilted away from theSun.)
Although in most locations (the North Pole and Equator being exceptions)the amount of daylight had been increasing each day after the winter solstice, after the spring equinox, many places will experience more daylight than darkness in each 24-hour day. The amount of daylight each day will continue to increase until the summer solstice in June, during which the longest period of daylightoccurs.
→See your personalized Sun rise and set calculator.
Here’s an interesting fact: Equinoxes are the only two times each year that the Sunrisesdue east andsetsdue west for all of us on Earth! While the Sun passes overhead, thetilt of the Earth is zero relative to the Sun, which means that Earth’s axis neither points toward nor away from the Sun.(Note, however, that the Earth never orbits upright, but is always tilted on its axis by about 23.5degrees.)
Read more aboutthereason for the seasons.
What Does “Equinox”Mean?
The wordequinoxcomes from the Latin words for“equal night”—aequus(equal) and nox(night).On the equinox, the length of day and night is nearly equal in all parts of theworld.
Spring Equinox FAQs
Q: Does Spring Begin on March 1 or on theEquinox?
A: Well, both. Theanswer depends on your definition of “spring.”Both dates are accurate; they’re just from different perspectives. We’ll explain…
Astronomically speaking, the first day of spring is marked bythe spring equinox, which falls on March 19, 20, or 21 every year. The equinox happens at the same moment worldwide, although our clock times reflect a different time zone.And, as mentioned above, this date only signalsspring’s beginning in the Northern Hemisphere; it announces fall’s arrival in the SouthernHemisphere.
Interestingly, due to time zone differences, there isn’t a March 21 equinox in mainland U.S. during the entire 21stcentury! We won’t see a March 21 equinox againuntil2101.
Meteorologically speaking, the official first day of spring is March 1 (and the last is May 31). Weather scientists divide the year into quarters to make it easier to compare seasonal and monthly statistics from one year to the next. The meteorological seasons are based on annual temperature cycles rather than on the position of Earth in relation to the Sun, and they more closely follow the Gregorian calendar. Using the dates of the astronomical equinoxes and solstices for the seasons would present a statistical problem, as these dates can vary slightly eachyear.
Q: Are Day and Night Equal on theEquinox?
A: Quite close!In reality, dayand night arenot exactly equal on the equinox for two reasons:First, daytime begins the moment any part of the Sun appears overthe horizonand is not finished until the last part of the Sun disappears below the horizon. If the Sun were to shrink to a starlike point and we lived in a world without air, the spring and fall equinoxes would truly have equalnights.
→Read about more fun facts in the Almanac Astronomer’s post, “Vernal Equinox Oddities.”
Q: According to folklore, you can stand a raw egg on its end on the equinox. Is thistrue?
A:This eggfolklore became popular in 1945 following aLIFE articleabout the spring practice. “The origins of this myth are attributed to stories that the ancient Chinese would create displays of eggs standing on end during the first day of spring,” according to John Millis, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Anderson University in South Carolina. “The ancient Chinese celebrated the first day of spring about six weeks earlier than the equinox”—not just on the equinoxitself.
As with most folklore, it’s only partly true. Youshould be able to balance an egg on its end on the equiox, but it’spossible to balance an egg on other days,too!
Folklore or not, this egg trick sounded likefun to us. One spring, a few minutes before the vernal equinox, several Almanac editors tried this trick. For a full workday, 17 out of 24 eggs stood on end. Three days later, we tried this trick again and found similar results. Perhaps three days after the equinox was still too near. Perhaps the equinox has nothing to do with it. Perhaps we just don’t like to take ourselves tooseriously!
Try this yourself and let us know what happens.(Tip: You’ll probably have better luck balancing an egg if you try it on a rough surface or use an egg that has a bumpyend.)
Q: Which Day Has the Most Sunlight in NorthAmerica?
A: The Summer—or “June”—Solstice is called the “longest” day of the year! The date of the longest day actually varies from June 20 to June 22, depending on the year, and the local time zone. By “longest day,” we mean the day that gets the most daylight (versus darkness).See our Summer Solstice page.
Some Ideas on How to CelebrateSpring!
To us, the vernal equinox signals new beginnings and nature’s renewal in the Northern Hemisphere!Many cultures celebrate with spring festivals, such as Easter and Passover.
Here are some ideas for how to spend the first week ofspring.
- Get outside! Look around. Are worms and grubs reappearing?(The March Full Moon is called the “Worm Moon” for this veryreason!)
- Watch the arc of the Sun across the sky as it shifts toward the north. Birds are migrating northward, along with the path of theSun.
- Are you noticing that the days are getting longer? Did you know that the increasing sunlight inspiresbirds tosing? Cool, eh? Enjoy ourBird Songs page.
- Are daffodils poking up their heads? Trees, shrubs, and flowers are sensitive to temperature and day length, too! Since ancient days, people have usednatural events as indicators of when the weather is right for planting. For example:Blooming crocus are your cue to plant radishes, parsnips, andspinach. See more of nature’s signs.
- Can you feel the Sun getting stronger? The longer days bring high temperatures.Both we and the animals around us discard our warm clothes and heavycoats!
- Do you plan to garden?The first day of spring is a traditional day to start in the garden! There’s nothing more restorative!See which days arethebest planting datesaccording to your local frost dates or consult our Vegetable Gardening for Beginners guideto getstarted!
- Are you craving fresh foods after a long winter? ASpringTonic, using the early greens ofspring, may be just the thing you need! Also, find some new spring recipes using what’s fresh andseasonal!
Ancient Equinox Traditions: The Snake ofSunlight
Scientific explanation aside, our ancestors were more connected to the Sun than we are today. They observed itspathway across the sky, andthey tracked how the sunrise, sunset, and day length changed, using the Sun (and Moon) as a clock andcalendar.
There are many ancient sites that mark the equinoxes (and solstices). One of the most famous ancient Spring equinox celebrations took place atChichen Itzain Mexico. The Mayans built a huge pyramid around the yearA.D.1000.Even today, the way the Sun’s light falls on it signals the beginning of theseasons. On the spring equinox, it looks like a huge snake is slithering down the steps. Mayans called this day “the return of theSunserpent.”
→ See more examples ofancient seasonal markers.
Spring Verse, Quotes, andSayings
- For glad Spring has begun,
And to the ardent sun
The earth, long time so bleak,
Turns a frost-bitten cheek.
- Celia Thaxter, American poet (1835–94)
- Spring-time sweet!
The whole Earth smiles, thy coming to greet.
- Never yet was a springtime,
Late though lingered the snow,
That the sap stirred not at the whisper
Of the southwind, sweet and low.
- Margaret Elizabeth Sangster, American writer(1838–1912)
- Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!”
- Robin Williams(1951–2014)
- Bluebirds are a sign of spring; warm weather and gentle south breezes theybring.
- One swallow does not make aspring.
- In spring, no one thinks of the snow that fell lastyear.
- When the dandelions bloom early in spring, there will be a short season. When they bloom late, expect a drysummer.
- Don’t say that spring has come until you can put your foot on ninedaisies.
Learn More About the First Days ofSeasons
The First Days of the Seasonsare marked by four astronomicalevents:
- The Spring/VernalEquinox
- The SummerSolstice
- The Fall/AutumnalEquinox
- The WinterSolstice
Look around! Observe! What are the signs of spring in your region? Please share in the commentsbelow!