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Yesterday, in the Northern Hemisphere, was the first day of Spring—astronomically anyway. For meteorologists, spring started three weeks ago on the first of March. And, if you are living south of the equator, it’s the first day of fall. From here on out, the days will continue to get longer until the Summer Solstice.
The Spring Equinox has been celebrated around the world for centuries. In ancient cultures it was celebrated as a time of renewal—of celebrating the birth of new lambs in the spring and the tilling of fields for crops,
For the Japanese, Shunbun no Hi is a week-long Buddhist celebration in which families remember their ancestors by visiting their graves and bringing gifts of food and flowers. In China, Qing Ming is a very similar celebration—and it’s at the beginning of Spring.
In Egypt, Libya, and other countries, the Spring Equinox is when they celebrate Mother’s Day. And in many other countries in the Middle East and Asia, the Spring Equinox marks Nowruz—or the beginning of the Persian New Year.
There are some other fun spring traditions around the world. In Poland, giant dolls made from straw, signifying winter, are paraded down the streets—then tossed into the river. Similarly, Sweden burns a giant snowman at the stake. In Lanark, Scotland, in a festival called Whuppity Scoorie, children run around the village square at dusk swinging balls of crumpled paper around their heads. After the third lap, the children scramble to pick up coins tossed by the local Town Council.
For me, the Spring Equinox means that my winter semi-hibernation is over and I can begin to get out in my garden more. This next week I’ll be planting potatoes and onions. If I had more room, I’d add asparagus and strawberries. Since I don’t have any more room, I’ll just have to let the farmers at our Farmers Market grow those for me.
Garden lore says it’s lucky to plant peas on St. Patrick’s Day. Since I missed that opportunity, hopefully it will be as lucky to plant them around the Spring Equinox. There are other seeds that can be started now, too. When in doubt, read the back of the seed packet to tell you exactly when.
Tolstoy said that “Spring is the time of plans and projects.” That’s certainly true enough!