The equinoxes are the balance points of the year, the two moments in the circle when we have roughly equal amounts of light and dark, night and day. Both holidays feature a feast of seasonal foods, perhaps not surprising when you consider that the plants are responding to the changes in light, just as we are.
The Spring Equinox feast is celebrated under many names: Passover, Easter, St. Joseph’s Day, and Naw-Ruz. But whatever its name, it typically features the first bitter greens of spring, a newly born lamb (perhaps), fresh eggs, and items made from the fresh butter and cream available as cows, goats, and sheep produce milk for their young.
This feast is also a New Year’s feast. The Spring Equinox was the start of the new year in Babylonia, and the Ides of March (the full moon of March) signaled the start of the new year in ancient Rome. This is also the start of the astrological year, when the sun enters the first sign of the zodiac: Aries.
For many centuries, March 25 (also known as Lady Day) was the start of the calendrical year. In other words, March 24, 1750, was the day before March 25, 1751. Great Britain and its colonies began the new year on March 25 until 1752. Persians still celebrate the new year on Spring Equinox with the joyous feast of Naw-Ruz.
I like to celebrate by decorating the table with all the signs of spring I can find (budding branches, brightly colored flowers, dyed eggs, and lots of rabbit symbols) and serve a frittata of fresh greens, a salad with sunflower seeds, and some sweet sorbet for dessert.
Waverly Fitzgerald is a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who has studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shares her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. She is currently working on a series of essays about looking for nature in the city and blogs for the Seattle PI as the “Urban Naturalist.”