Twice a year the tilt of the earth's axis matches perfectly with the sun. This means that on the equinox the sun is directly over the equator, but this is more than a symbolic. Because of the position of the sun in the sky the sky the equinoxes are the days of the year when day and night are most equal. This is not to say that day and night will be perfectly even but they are as close as they are likely to get. The Vernal Equinox is also the official change of season from spring to summer.
In our modern world the need to understand when summer or fall is beginning is little more than a matter of comfort for many of us, but for those in the ancient world this information was much more important. The understanding of the seasons allowed them to plant crops, store food, hunt and even migrate.
Among the enchant artifacts that demonstrate this ancient understanding of the equinox is the 4500 year old Egyptian Sphinx which faces due east on the vernal equinox and across the world the 3000 year old Stonehenge which marks the position of the rising sun on the vernal equinox and even in central America the Mayan Caracol Tower and the temples of the sun and moon have alignments that match with the sun's position on the Vernal Equinox.
In the modern world there are still many celebrations on this day. Among them is the somewhat silly, and untrue belief that this is the only day in which you can balance an egg. In fact you can balance an egg just as easily on any day of the year. More serious celebrations also occur on this day. The Japanese celebrate Shunbun no hi by setting the day aside for honoring nature and family while in Wicca it is one of the eight major sabbats and of course the first day of spring.
In addition to religious holidays and celebrations this is also a significant day for astronomy and many schools and observatories have lectures and stargazing events on this day. This is an excellent excuse to look at the beauty of the stars even if you don't particularly care about the length of the day.
In conclusion, the celebration of the equinox's in human society are some of the longest standing and most practical holidays and while they matter less to us in many ways than they did thousands of years ago it is still good to stop and think of the history of the day and the many ancestors you had who lived and died by the knowledge of this day but of the understanding of the equinoxes as well as the grand dance of the celestial bodies.Learn more about this author, Elton Gahr.