In Mexico, the spring equinox is celebrated with spring festivals and parades, but another very popular activity to celebrate the occasion is to visit archaeological sites, where people may take part in special rituals to honor this special date, the beginning of spring, when day and night are of equal length.
What is the Spring Equinox?
On the equinox, the sun is positioned directly over the equator.
The word "equinox" means "equal night" referring to the fact that on this day, the hours of daylight and and night are the same. There are two equinoxes during the year: the spring equinox, sometimes called "vernal equinox," which falls around March 20th, and the autumn equinox which falls around September 23rd. The day of the spring equinox marks the end of winter and beginning of spring.
The spring equinox is celebrated in many traditions as a time of fertility, regeneration and rebirth. Easter is calculated according to the date of the Spring Equinox - in the Western Church Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Spring equinox (the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates Easter on a different date).
Spring Equinox Dates
The Spring equinox usually falls on the 20th or 21st of March. The dates for the Spring Equinox may vary slightly from year to year, in some places occurring as early as March 19th.
Read Why Has Date Changed for Start of Spring? (offsite link) to find out about how the date of the spring equinox can vary.
In many places in Mexico there are spring festivals, festivales de primavera, that take place to celebrate the beginning of spring. Children's parades are also popular and if you're in Mexico on or around the date of the spring equinox you may see children on parade dressed up as flowers and animals.
Spring Equinox in Mexico's Archaeological Sites
The Mayan archaeological site of Chichen Itza is the most popular spot in Mexico to celebrate the spring equinox. The site's most famous building, The Kulkulkan temple, is the site of a dramatic display of Mayan astronomical knowledge. Every year on the autumn and spring equinoxes the light of the sun makes a play of light and shadow which makes it look like a serpent is slithering along the steps of the pyramid. The effect begins in the late afternoon, around 4 pm, and lasts for an hour or so. The serpent appears for a few days - from around March 19th to the 23rd, but on the actual date of the equinox the effect is most obvious.
Visitor's Guide to Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza Photo Gallery
The archaeological site of Teotihuacan, near Mexico City, is also a favorite spot to celebrate the Spring Equinox. On this date hundreds of thousands of visitors visit the site, many dressed all in white. They climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun where they perform rituals and stretch out their arms to receive the special energy they believe is present on that day.
Take a virtual tour of Teotihuacan.
This archaeological site in the state of Veracruz, as well as the town of Papantla, where it is located, hosts the Cumbre Tajín festival every year for the spring equinox, and it is a colorful cultural celebration where you will witness the ritual of the Voladores, a time-honed tradition, as well as concerts and performances.
Learn more about El Tajín