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What is the spring equinox and how is it celebrated?

Spring is in the air. Credit: PA

It may not not have felt like it when you woke up this morning to rain and grey skies, but Monday is the spring equinox - or the first day of spring.

Also known as the vernal equinox it is celebrated in different ways across the world.

  • When is the spring equinox?

March 20 marks the official start of spring as the sun passes the celestial equator.

From the spring equinox - also known as the vernal equinox - there are more hours of daylight than night until the autumnal equinox on September 23.

There will now be more hours of sunlight than night. Credit: PA
  • What does it mean?

The word "equinox" is Latin for "equal night".

Astronomers use it as the official turning point in the seasons because, although it can by several hours from year to year, it allows for the most accurate record-keeping.

  • But the weather has been so warm already, why is it only just spring?

Meteorologists disagree that March 20 is the first day of spring, and say that instead it is March 1.

They divide the year up into the four seasons: spring (March, April, May), summer (June, July, August), autumn (September, October, November), winter (December, January, February).

However, already this month we have seen some days which have been much hotter than the 10.3C average for this time of the year, with last Tuesday reportedly hotter than Ibiza and Barcelona.

Whichever way you look at it, it is now officially spring. Credit: PA
  • Is it definitely spring now?

For the northern hemisphere it is.

For the southern hemisphere, March 20 is their autumnal equinox.

  • Is the vernal equinox celebrated?

Along with holidays around the vernal equinox, such as Easter and Passover, around the world there are many different ways in which people celebrate the arrival of spring.

None of these will stand up. Credit: PA

It is an ancient Chinese belief that you can stand an egg on its end on the first day of spring.

The theory is that, due to the sun's equidistant position between the poles of the earth at the time of the equinox, special gravitational forces apply.

Spoiler alert: the egg will roll over.

Holi celebrants throw coloured powder into the air during the festival. Credit: AP/Manish Swarup

The Hindu festival of Holi celebrates spring, as well as love and the triumph of good over evil.

Also known as the "festival of colours" it is celebrated by throwing coloured powders and dancing in the streets.

In 2017 Holi began on March 12 and lasted for a number of days,

Shamrocks are thought to be symbolic of the regenerative powers of nature. Credit: PA

Druids may wear a shamrock or trefoil which is thought to be symbolic of the regenerative powers of nature.

Seeds are planted to show rebirth and renewal. Credit: PA

In Sicily women plant the seeds in baskets and pots and when they sprout the stalks are tied with red ribbons and the flowers are placed on grave on Good Friday, symbolising the triumph of life over death.

The tradition is left over from ancient Italy when women planted seeds on Adonis day to symbolise the rebirth, renewal and growth of spring.

At Chichén Itzá in Mexico, the rising sun transforms one edge of the giant pyramid into a blazing serpent. Credit: PA

Many of the world's ancient monuments were built as astrological calendars and map the movement of the sun over the course of the year.

At Stonehenge in Wiltshire, druids, pagans and Wiccans gather to watch the sun rise above the 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.