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Volume XVII, Issue 12 - March 19 - March 25, 2009
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Sky Watch by J. Alex Knoll

Spring’s Many Celebrations

Faiths agree this is one big day

Friday, March 20, the sun crosses the equator and returns to the Northern Hemisphere after six months basking the Southern hemisphere with its rays. On this first day of spring, the sun rises due east and sets due west, dividing the day equally between light and dark.

For those of us this side of the equator, vernal equinox begins the planting season, with the days surrounding the new moon nearest equinox an especially good time to sow the earth. So get your soil turned and your seeds ready, as that’s Thursday, March 26, this year.

Vernal equinox marks the beginning of the Persian New Year, Nowruz, which stretches back 3,000 years. In ancient Egypt, the Great Sphinx was built to face the rising sun the day of vernal equinox.

Passover, the eight-day celebration of the Jews’ escape from slavery in Egypt, commences with the sacrifice of the paschal lamb during Chodesh ha-Aviv, the first month of spring. However, with 291⁄2 days each month in the Jewish lunar year, some years with 13 full moons have 13 months. Thus the date of Passover shifts from year to year. This year it begins April 9.

Easter is another moveable feast, coming anywhere between March 22 and April 25. It falls on the first Sunday after the paschal full moon falling on or after vernal equinox — unless that full moon falls on a Sunday, in which case Easter is the following Sunday. That’s April 12 this year.

In Japan, vernal equinox, Shunbun no Hi, is a national holiday spent visiting family and paying respects to those who have left this world.

Vernal equinox marked the first Earth Day, which was celebrated March 21, 1970, as opposed to the current date of April 22.

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