Customs and Holidays around the March Equinox

The March equinox coincides with many cultural events, religious observances and customs.

It’s also called the “spring equinox” in the northern hemisphere and the “autumnal (fall) equinox” in the southern hemisphere.


Easter Sunday celebrates the Christian belief of Jesus Christ’s resurrecion, according to Christian belief. Read more on determining the Easter date.


Higan, or Higan-e, is a week of Buddhist services in Japan during the March and September equinoxes. Both equinoxes have been national holidays since the Meiji period (1868-1912).

“Higan” means the “other shore” and refers to dead spirits who reach Nirvana after crossing the river of existence. It celebrates the spiritual move from the world of suffering to the world of enlightenment.

Nowruz (No-Ruz)

The Iranian start of the New Year (Nowruz, No-Ruz, No-Rooz or No Ruz) occurs during the time of the March equinox, in accordance with the Persian astronomical calendar The No-Ruz celebration of spring lasts for about 12 days and dates back to pre-Islamic times. Preparations begin well in advance and include purchasing new clothes for all family members and thoroughly cleaning homes. Wheat or lentil representing new growth is grown in a flat dish a few days before the New Year and is called Sabzeh (green shoots).

Tunisian National Day

In Tunisia, March 20 is Independence Day. Following World War II, Tunisia experienced a surge of nationalism and in 1956 France signed a treaty to recognize the country’s full independence.

Earth Day

Some organizations schedule Earth Day for March 20, while others set the date for April 22. For some, Earth Day is when people from all nations, religions and cultural backgrounds celebrate their similarities: living on Earth. For others, Earth Day is observed to promote the protection the natural environment from pollution and other destructive forces. Earth Day activities include planting trees, cleaning roadside rubbish and conducting recycling and conservation programs. Earth day was first observed in 1970.

Back Badge Day

Back Badge Day falls on March 21, which in some years is the time of the March equinox. It is celebrated by the British Army’s Gloucestershire Regiment, whose men wear a badge on the back as well as the front of their caps. They have done so since March 21, 1801, when the Battle of Alexandria was fought. The men were ordered to stand back to back, facing away from the charging French cavalry until the enemy were almost upon them. They then turned and fired, causing the French to retreat in disorder.

Other Observances

The Bahá’í New Year is also celebrated on March 21, which is the date of the March equinox in some years, such as 2003 and 2007. The Hindi Holi celebration, one of India’s major festivals, is also celebrated around this time of the year in 2008.

In the northern hemisphere the March equinox marks the start of spring and has long been celebrated as a time of rebirth. It is an ancient Chinese custom to balance eggs – a symbol of fertility – on the day of the March equinox to bring good luck and prosperity.

According to Jewish tradition, God made the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day of creation – and once every 28 years the sun returns to the same astronomical position that it held that day. The Talmud says that the turning point of this cycle occurs at the March equinox.

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