Not that you’d be able to tell from the insane weather fluctuations that have been gripping the country (and L.A. specifically) as of late, but spring is officially upon us! That’s right, spring has sprung, and while we have a lot to look forward to in these coming months (like outdoor events and shorts and PEDICURES), we shouldn’t forget the importance of the first day of the season. For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, that’s the spring, or vernal, equinox, one of the two days of the year during which the sun shines directly on the equator and the lengths of day and night are equal (give or take a few seconds). This year, the moment in which we bid adieu to winter and welcome spring is on Thursday, March 20th, at approximately 9:57 AM in Los Angeles.
The spring equinox has long been an important date to many civilizations and cultures across history, probably due to the fact that the transition from winter to spring has symbolized rebirth and renewed fertility after a period of death. As such, many religious holidays and cultural customs have “sprung” up (har-har) around the spring equinox, some of which are still celebrated today, such as:
Norooz, which literally translates into “new day” in Farsi, is the day on which Iranians celebrate the new year, and falls squarely on the vernal equinox. Iranians and their cultural ancestors have been celebrating the spring equinox for over 3000 years, since the days of the Zoroastrian religious movement from which this holiday grew. Norooz preparations include cleaning houses, buying new clothing, and planting tulip flowers and wheat shoots that symbolize life and growth and greenery. On the evening of the equinox, extended families gather in a member’s home (usually that of the grandmother/matriarch of the family) around a haftseen, which is a table set with items like mirrors, apples and garlic symbolizing different aspects of life. Family members exchange gifts and partake in sumptuous repasts as they celebrate the coming year with one another.
Higan (or Higan-e)
Buddhists of all sects living in Japan celebrate this holiday both on the vernal equinox and on the autumnal equinox, which occurs in September. With its roots in the periods of rest enjoyed during the temperate weather afforded by the equinoxes, Higan is a moment for people to meditate on their lives and to recommit themselves to following and living the tenets of Buddhism. Buddhists visit temples with flowers and incense to spend time at the graves of deceased loved ones while contemplating the impermanence of life. Higan’s etymological roots trace themselves to the phrase “the other or that shore of Sanzu river,” which has long been used to refer to the concept of enlightenment. Thus, those who celebrate this holiday regroup their efforts to escape the cycle of death and rebirth altogether and reach the “other shore” of peace.
Ostara is an age-old celebration of fertility and rebirth observed by pagans and Wiccans all across the world. Many sources agree that the name for the holiday comes from the Germanic goddess most associated with it: Ēostre (from which modern English speakers also derive words like “Easter” and “east”). This holiday, which takes place on the day of the equinox, focuses on the imagery of dawn and radiant light chasing away the shadows and darkness of winter, and bestowing fertility and abundance on people and nature. Because of the importance of rebirth on this holiday, eggs, which have long been considered symbols of fertility, are the most important symbols associated with Ostara and used in many of the rituals designed to commemorate the holiday. In one such rite that has crept its way into Easter celebrations, people color eggs and hide or exchange them with others as tokens of abundance and prosperity. Some people even claim that you can simply set an egg down on the ground and it will balance upright in the exact moments before and after the equinox, which might be a mystical nod to the restored balance that Ostara brings to the world after winter.
Whether you’re contemplating the endless cycle of the seasons or contemplating how to get your hands on a pair of flats Valentino debuted at Spring Fashion Week this year in time for sandal weather, we here at Lady Clever wish you a happy and joy-filled season! Happy Spring!