Spring equinox scheme (Source: www.haitiobserver.com)

Today, Tuesday 20 March, we welcome spring, the first of the four seasons of the year, whose arrival is marked by equinox (from the Latin aequinoctium, in turn derived from aequa nox, equal night), an astral phenomenon caused by the Earth’s revolutionary movement around the Sun and, as a result, determines a perfect division of day and night.
As is well known, this event occurs twice a year: between 19 and 21 March (spring equinox) and between 22 and 23 September (autumn equinox). The lack of a specific day is dictated, in both cases, by the inconsistency between the Gregorian calendar (the one introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1532) and the sidereal calendar.




Spring in the Ancient World

The kidnapping of Proserpina by Bernini at the Borghese Gallery of Rome (Source: resturars.altervista.org)

The origin of spring has always been linked as a very well known tale, the Greek myth of Proserpina.

Daughter of Zeus and Demeter, Persephone was a good and obedient girl. One day, while she was with her friends, she lost herself in a valley near Enna, in Sicily. The young woman asked for help, but no one heard her. It is said that suddenly the earth opened under her feet and that a cart appeared pulled by four black horses and led by Hades, his uncle and god of the underworld, who kidnapped her and took her with her into the abyss.
Demeter, having no news of her daughter, and, after receiving a rather sibilline response from Hecate, goddess of the night, decided to turn to the Sun, who I explain how, at the behest of Zeus, Persephone had been kidnapped by Hades.
Adid, Demeter refused to return to Mount Olympus and, abandoned the divine features and assumed those of a horrible old woman dressed in rags, she began wandering and from Sicily arrived at Eleusi, in Greece. Here, exhausted, she lay down on the ground and began to cry, until she was rescued by a woman who had pity on her and brought her to her home. After a series of events that marked the birth of Demeter’s cult to Elefsina, the goddess, still strongly tormented by the loss of her daughter, decided, with the touch of her hands, to make the land sterile and fruitless, causing, in this way, the death of many men. For this reason, Zeus, in order to save mankind, decided to come to terms with the raging goddess and sent Hermes from Hades so that Persephone could return to his mother. Hades agreed, however, on condition that the girl, while becoming his wife, could return to him and, to ensure that this return, Hades had her eaten grains of pomegranate. A law of Destiny established, in fact, that cjiunque had eaten some grains of this fruit in the house of her husband, would return to it. And so, Persephone returned to see the sunlight again and his mother Demeter to celebrate covered the land with flowers and fruit. Zeus, however, had to find a new compromise to satisfy both Demetra and Ade. He established, therefore, that the beautiful girl would live for two thirds of the year with her mother and the remaining third with her husband, Hades.





The symbolism of spring in the various cultures

The spring season marks the awakening from the winter months, the triumph of light over darkness and abundance over the sterility of the earth typical of the coldest months.

For these reasons, therefore, spring symbolizes a real rebirth that, full of symbolic meanings, has been celebrated, since the dawn of time, with a series of traditions, many of which have come down to our days. This is the case of Sham El Nessim, a festival of ancient Egypt, consisting of a kind of outdoor excursion in which eggs were also consumed (symbol of rebirth par excellence), is still today, among the great Egyptian holidays of our time.

The Christian world itself is also linked to the spring equinox, which not only coincides with the day of the Annunciation, but also represents the day on which the count for Easter Sunday, the feast of the Resurrection of Christ and the true heart of the liturgical year, is based. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon, simultaneous or subsequent to the March equinox. For this reason, therefore, Easter can be celebrated on 22nd March but never after 25th April.

A rebirth understood as new life, new cycle, new beginning, a sort of head to head that has pushed the populations of Ancient Mesopotamia or of Persian origin to set the beginning of the new year with the arrival of spring. The same zodiac begins with the sign of Aries, the reference constellation of the spring equinox.

holi festival in India (Source: newsly.it)

There are also many traditions and celebrations in the Asian world.
The Hindu religion celebrates today the holi, the feast of colours, a day in which the differences between castes are cancelled and the people poured out into the street to sing and dance all together, throwing colour pigment powders into the air.

Flowering Cherry Trees in Japan (Source: grechigiardini.it)

The arrival of spring is also very much felt in Japan, where, between March 20 and 21, is celebrated Shunbun No Hi, a special day that is part of a longer period of celebration that lasts a week, commonly known as Spring Higan, consisting of a set of practices to follow (such as making offers, perseverance, diligence, wisdom etc.) to achieve happiness and fortune. The most famous show of the Japanese spring is, without doubt, that of the flowering cherry trees, whose petals are compared to the life of the samurai, short, but intense.



Posted by Sara Pandozzi

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