The countdown is nearly over to the first day of spring – which is marked in the northern hemisphere by the Vernal Equinox.
It means the daffodils are turning the parks yellow, blossom is lacing the trees and Easter is firmly on its way.
This year, the Vernal Equinox will take place on Tuesday, March 20 and will officially mark the beginning of spring.
Here’s everything you need to know about it – including a few strange traditions that you may or may not be aware of.
Equinoxes and solstices mark key stages in the astronomical cycle of the Earth.
The March equinox has long been celebrated as a time of rebirth in the Northern Hemisphere.
Many cultures celebrate spring festivals and holidays around the March equinox, like Easter and Passover.
However, there are also a few more unorthodox celebrations – some of which date back thousands of years.
If you’re looking for a way to mark the occasion, here are five weird traditions to give you inspiration:
1. Balance an egg
There is an ancient Chinese belief that you can stand an egg on its end on the first day of spring.
The theory goes that, due to the sun’s equidistant position between the poles of the earth at the time of the equinox, special gravitational forces apply.
This is, of course, nonsense. But it does still make for a fun party game – and you can save your eggs to paint on Easter Day.
2. Throw some colored powder
Holi is an ancient Hindu festival celebrating the victory of good over evil. It takes place each year around the time of the vernal equinox.
Known as the “festival of colours”, it is celebrated by tossing vibrant coloured powders onto each other and dancing in the streets.
This year, Holi starts on Sunday, March 12, but if you’ve got some leftover powder, why not save it to brighten up your day on the 20th?
3. Wear a shamrock
The symbolic plant of the equinox in Druidry is the trefoil or shamrock, which is also customarily worn on St. Patrick’s Day.
The three leaves shaped like hearts were associated with the Triple Goddess of Celtic mythology, otherwise known as the “Three Morgans”
The shamrock is thought to be symbolic of the regenerative powers of nature.
4. Plant seeds
The spring equinox is symbolic of rebirth, renewal, and growth, and in ancient Italy, it was traditional for women to plant seeds in the gardens of Adonis on this day.
The custom persists in Sicily, where women plant seeds of grains – lentils, fennel, lettuce or flowers – in baskets and pots.
When they sprout, the stalks are tied with red ribbons and the flowers are placed on graves on Good Friday, symbolising the triumph of life over death.
5. Visit an ancient monument
Many of the world’s ancient monuments were built as astrological calendars, to map the movement of the Sun over the course of the year.
The equinox is therefore a great time to visit these monuments, as they are often aligned to make the most of the Sun’s unique position in the sky.
At Stonehenge in Wiltshire, the sun can be seen rising precisely between two stones, while at Chichén Itzá in Mexico, the rising sun transforms one edge of the giant pyramid into a blazing serpent, representing the Mayan god Kukulcan.