7 things to know about the spring equinox

Sometimes winter can feel like forever, but spring always comes back around.

The spring equinox took place this morning, March 20th, meaning spring is officially here!!

Here are seven things to know about the equinox:

1. What exactly is an equinox? It's the moment the sun reaches an imaginary line marking the equator, when the length of days and nights is almost equal.

2. How many times a year do we experience an equinox? Two. The first one, which occurs in March when the sun is crossing into the Northern Hemisphere, is called the vernal equinox (the word "vernal" comes from the Latin word "ver," which means spring.) The second one, which occurs in September when the sun is crossing into the Southern Hemisphere, is called the autumnal equinox.

3. What causes spring and the other three seasons of summer, autumn and winter? The Earth tilts about 23.4 degrees on its axis as it orbits the sun. The axis always tilts the same way, and as the Earth orbits the sun, different parts of the planet receive maximum sunlight. If the Earth didn't tilt at all, there would be no seasons.

4. Do the other planets in our solar system have seasons? Technically, yes, but we can't compare their seasons to what we experience here on Earth. Venus is very similar in size to Earth, but it's a lot closer to the sun. Also, its tilt is a mere 2.7 degrees so there's not much difference between winter and summer on Venus. A season on Venus lasts 55 to 58 days. On Earth, which takes longer to go around the sun, our seasons last between 90 and 93 days. Compare that to Neptune's seasons: On the most distant planet in our solar system, a season lasts more than 40 years. Neptune's axis tilts 28.3 degrees, so like Earth, it has four distinct seasons — but because the sun's light is very dim on Neptune, it's always very cold in comparison to our standards.

5. Is there a connection between the spring equinox and Easter? Yes, in Western Christianity, Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs after the spring equinox. Also, the word "Easter" is very similar to "Eostra," the Teutonic goddess of fertility, who was associated with rabbits.

6. Did ancient people dress up to celebrate spring? Consider this passage from "The Golden Bough" by Sir James George Frazer, a 19th-century social anthropologist credited for laying the groundwork for the modern study of mythology and comparative religion:

"(P)rimitive man believed that in order to produce the great phenomena of nature on which his life depended he had only to imitate them, and that immediately by a secret sympathy or mystic influence the little drama which he acted in forest glade or mountain dell, on desert plain or windswept shore, would be taken up and repeated by mightier actor on a vaster stage. He fancied that by masquerading in leaves and flowers he helped the bare earth to cloth herself with verdure."

Have things really changed? Check in any spring fashion catalog or clothing store and you'll find lots of floral prints!

7. And speaking of spring flowers, where's a good place to see them? Visit Cox Arboretum MetroPark at 6733 Springboro Pike. The indoor education center has a large number of flowers on display, which can also be enjoyed on rainy days.

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