The vernal equinox is here, marking the first official day of Spring. The equinox means that both the Northern and Southern hemispheres will receive an equal amount of daylight and darkness.
The event takes place twice a year, once for the Spring (Vernal) and once for Autumn. The term equinox is derived from two Latin words, aequus (equal) and nox (night). Depending on the year and Earth’s rotation, Spring’s start can vary between Mar. 20 and Mar. 21 (if you live in the Northern hemisphere — Bustle explains the difference if you live in the Southern hemisphere).
Solstices are the other “change” of a season that occurs twice a year as well.
The word solstice comes from the Latin words sol (sun) and sister (to stand still). The summer solstice is when the Earth is at its maximum tilt towards the Sun (this is also the longest day of the year, where we receive the most daylight) as opposed to the winter solstice when the Earth has tilted away from the Sun, making it the longest night of the year.
In the Northern hemisphere, the summer solstice happens in June, and the winter solstice occurs in December. It’s the other way around in the Southern hemisphere. This is why the seasons in Canada and Australia are reversed because the two hemispheres are dealing with opposite reactions to sunlight and the tilt of the Earth’s axis.
A longstanding tradition for the winter and summer solstices is to visit Stonehenge in the United Kingdom. During those two periods, the sun rises and aligns with the monument (which is almost 5000 years-old).
If you decided to go to Stonehenge for the spring equinox prepare to be disappointed. The real place to see the equinox is in Mexico, specifically the pyramid at Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula. The pyramid, which is around 1000 years-old, was built by the Mayans and designed to cast a shadow of the body of Kukulkán, a snake god. Kukulkán’s head is at the base of the pyramid, and the sun creates his body shape during the equinox.