Spring Equinox 2023 at Chichén Itzá

The word equinox comes from the Latin aequus nocte which means “equal night” and it refers to the fact that the length of the day is approximately equal to that of the night. This event occurs around March 21 and September 21 each year in the northern hemisphere.

What is the Spring Equinox?

Because the Earth does not rotate on its axis in a fixed manner, but wobbles slightly as it goes around the Sun, the position of the Sun appears to move from north to south and from south to north each year from a fixed point of view on Earth.

Along this apparent path, from the Northern Hemisphere, there are two dates when the sun is directly overhead, and the days are about the same length as the nights. Around September 21 is the autumn equinox and, the one that we talk about now, the spring equinox around March 21.

Solstice and Equinox: how are they different?

The word solstice also comes from the Latin solstitium and means “quiet sun.”

Along the apparent path of the Sun, from the Northern Hemisphere, the northernmost point at which we see it occurs around June 21 each year and we call it the summer solstice, during which the day is longer than the night. The southernmost point at which we see it occurs around December 21 and we call it the winter solstice, during which the night is longer than the day.

So, the difference is the length of day and night.

Spring Equinox in the Mexican Caribbean

The spring equinox was a very important date for pre-Hispanic cultures since it marks the beginning of the agricultural cycle. The Maya, for example, developed amazingly accurate calendars and buildings that helped them identify certain astronomical phenomena related to important cultural events, such as agriculture.

The Maya are the original people of the Yucatan Peninsula, where the Mexican Caribbean is, and their culture is very much alive. They continue to observe the arrival of spring with a spiritual sense and around it they have syncretic celebrations.

Chichén Itzá: The ideal place to appreciate the equinox

The Castle pyramid or Temple of Kukulcan is in Chichén Itzá and is not only one of the New Seven Wonders of the world, but it is the largest calendar ever built. For example, the sum of the number of steps of the stairways on its four sides add up to 364, plus the platform at the top, resulting in 365, the number of days in a year.

However, its most surprising characteristic is the elegant way in which it shows the arrival of spring and autumn, the beginning and end of the agricultural cycle. The Castle is aligned with the cardinal points exactly. Around the spring and autumn equinoxes at sunset, a play of light and shadow on one side of the north stairway the body of a serpent appears, slithering towards the ground, reaching its head carved in stone at the base.

It is the descent of the god Kukulcan, the feathered serpent that arrives to fertilize the earth in spring. A show that you cannot miss.