March 20, 2013, is a date that most of us recognize as symbolic of changing seasons.
Spring has been celebrated throughout human history as a tie of organic and spiritual rebirth following the “dying of the year” in winter.
In Minnesota this is also known to some of us as “hibernation,” where the windchill plus temperatures keep us indoors almost 24/7 until the snow cover has completely melted and there is definitely not a chance for snow for at least the next three months.
March 20 is also significant for astronomical reasons. It is the date that the sun will cross directly over the earth’s equator.
When this happens it is known as the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere and the autumnal equinox in the southern hemisphere.
These brief, but monumental moments owe their significance to the 23.4 degree tilt of the earth’s axis. Because of this we receive the sun’s rays most directly in the summer. In the winter we are tilted away from the sun and the sun’s rays pass through the atmosphere at a greater slant, bringing cooler temperatures.
Translated, equinox means “equal lengths of night and daylight.” Because the sun is positioned above the equator, day and night are about equal in length all over the world during the equinoxes.
Astronomy aside, people have recognized the vernal equinox for thousands of years. There is no shortage of rituals and traditions surrounding the coming of spring.
Some ancient spring festivals celebrated the return of light and life with fertility rituals and symbols. The egg, being the most literal and obvious of all fertility symbols, has survived not only in the form of egg rolling and Easter egg hunts, but also in the superstitious belief, most often attributed to the Chinese, that you can stand raw eggs on end the first day of spring.
Many early peoples celebrated for the basic reason that their food supplies would soon be restored. The date is significant in Christianity because Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
The coming of spring, marked by the passage of the sun from the southern to the northern hemisphere in the sky is usually accompanied by the melody of awakening life around us.
The moon, resurrection, Easter and eggs, along with a lot of other things involving fertility, life and death have become intertwined. Even the rabbit has gotten in the picture.
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The underlying assumption relating to standing eggs on end is that there must exist some special gravitational balances.
Sorry, folks! No such thing occurs at equinox time.
I’m not saying it can’t be done–standing raw eggs on end, I mean–but it takes patience, eggs of just the right shape and a pinch of salt if needed.
Here’s a secret–it works any day of the year.
Some will say that this can happen only for an hour or two centered on the exact time of the equinox.
But don’t let that stop you from gathering friends and family around to try balancing eggs yourself.
At the risk of being boiled and dyed for heresy, I think there is more to life than science!