20/03/2017 12:09 GMT

What Is The Spring Equinox 2017? The Meaning Behind March’s Vernal Equinox

When is the spring equinox?

The Spring equinox marks the official beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, taking place this year on Monday 20 March. From this day forward, the days will be longer than the nights.

However due to the Earth’s elliptical orbit of the sun, the date changes slightly every year. 

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Visitors stretch their arms toward the sun during spring equinox celebrations atop the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico on March 21, 2016

It takes place when the sun is shining directly on the equator.

The exact moment of the equinox is when the Sun crosses the celestial equator (an imaginary line above the earth’s equator), running north to south.

This happened at 10.28am in 2017.

Spring equinox traditions

Many cultures celebrate festivals and holidays around the equinox, such as Easter in Christianity, Holi in Hinduism and Passover in Judaism.

The Persian new year, known as Nowruz, is also celebrated at this time.

Perhaps one of the most famous traditions around the equinox was held at the Mayan site of Chichen Itza, Mexico

The Temple of Kulkan, dedicated to a feathered serpent god and known for bloody sacrifices, is built so that on both the Spring and Autumn equinox, the northwest corner of the pyramid casts a series of shadows which look like a snake slithering down its side.

A number of people often gather at Stonehenge in Wiltshire to celebrate the event as well.