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Spring Equinox - Unit I

The Spring Equinox is also known as:
Alban Eilir
Alban Elfed
Eostar
Eostre
Feast of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Festival of Trees
Lady Day
NawRuz
No Ruz
Ostara
Ostra
Rites of Spring
and the Vernal Equinox.

Overview:
Religious followers from around the world observe many seasonal days of celebration during March and April. Most are religious holy days, and are linked in some way to the spring or vernal equinox. On that day, the daytime and nighttime hours are approximately equal -- each being 12 hours long.

Christianity and other religious associate three themes with the vernal equinox:

Conception and pregnancy leading to birth on the winter solstice. Victory of a god of light (or life, rebirth, resurrection) over the powers of darkness (death). The descent of the goddess or god into the underworld for a period of three days. This is such a popular theme among religions that mythologists refer to it as "the harrowing of Hell." 13

People view other religions in various ways, and thus treat the celebrations of other faiths differently:

Some people value the worldwide variety of March and April celebrations, because demonstrates the diversity of religious belief within our common humanity. They respect both their own religious traditions and those of other faiths for their ability to inspire people to lead more ethical and fulfilled lives. Religious diversity is, to them, a positive influence. Others reject the importance of all celebrations other than the holy days recognized by their own religion. Some go so far as rejecting some of their religion's holy days when they are discovered to have Pagan origins (e.g. Easter and Christmas). Some consider religions other than their own as being inspired by Satan. Thus the equinox celebrations of other religions are viewed as Satanic in origin, and intrinsically evil.

When and why the vernal equinox happens:
The seasons of the year are caused by the 23.5 tilt of the earth's axis. Because the earth is rotating like a top or gyroscope, it points in a fixed direction continuously -- towards a point in space near the North Star. But the earth is also revolving around the sun. During half of the year, the southern hemisphere is more exposed to the sun than is the northern hemisphere. During the rest of the year, the reverse is true. At noontime in the Northern Hemisphere the sun appears high in the sky during summertime and low in the sky during winter. The time of the year when the sun reaches its maximum elevation occurs on the day with the greatest number of daylight hours. This is called the summer solstice, and is typically JUN-21 -- the first day of summer. The lowest elevation occurs about DEC-21 and is the winter solstice -- the first day of winter, when the night time hours are maximum. Almost exactly half-way between the winter and summer solstice is the time of the vernal or spring equinox. It is one of two times during the year when the daytime and nighttime are almost exactly 12 hours long, and very close to being equal to each other.

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