The spring equinox, sometimes called the vernal equinox, is when the 24-hour day falls into exactly two 12-hour halves of darkness and light. It is caused by the sun falling across the equator each year. The spring equinox has been celebrated for thousands of years by cultures around the world. Many of these cultures celebrated this day long before Christianity. There was a long line of deities devoted to springtime, rebirth and renewal who were associated with the spring equinox. These gods and goddesses were celebrated each year at the spring equinox.
Dionysus, God of Revelry
The Greek god Dionysus was the god of all kinds of fun stuff – wine, revelry, flowers, poetry, theater, fertility and having a good time. Later, the Romans adopted him and called him Bacchus. The term “bacchanal” comes from this and means a drunken celebration. Dionysus was usually portrayed as a young man holding a cup of wine and crowned with a wreath of grapes, ivy and flowers. He was often followed by nymphs who wore wreaths of flowers in their hair to represent rebirth and beauty.
Eostre, Goddess of Spring
In Europe, druids and pagans worshiped Eostre, the German goddess of the dawn and fertility. The Anglo-Saxons embraced this Germanic goddess and celebrated her at the spring equinox at various ancient stone structures such as Stonehenge, where the rising sun perfectly aligns with the monoliths at the equinox. They also laid colored eggs on graves as offerings to Eostre before the sunrise each year. Eostre was associated with both bunnies and lambs, two animals that reproduced near in March, around the spring equinox.
Wicca is a contemporary version of paganism that honors the earth. Its practitioners stay in sync with the seasons and celebrate them as part of the fabric of life. They recognize the vernal equinox as a way to celebrate birth and renewal. Often, they will have a bonfire with dancing, singing and honoring spring’s rebirth.
Celebrating the Spring Equinox
If you’d like to celebrate the vernal equinox this year, there are several ways you can pay tribute to earth’s renewal with a nod to ancient practices:
- Plant some flower seeds. This day is all about growth and beauty.
- Throw a party. Invite friends to your “bacchanal” and suggest they dress in togas to pay tribute to Dionysus and Bacchus, or dress like a spring chick or bunny, symbols of fertility and growth.
- Visit a winery or two for a bit of wine tasting.
- Host a bonfire, complete with music and dancing.
- Color eggs as gifts for friends and family. Deliver dressed up in a bunny suit, the symbol of spring!
- Learn more about ancient celebrations with a trip to the library or some research on the Internet.
And of course, you can always dress up like your favorite god or goddess to celebrate the spring equinox. At Halloween Empire, we have togas, floral wreaths and even bunny costumes to help you bring in the spring!