Around March 20, the sun crosses directly over the Earth's equator. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, it is known as the Vernal Equinox. Translated literally, equinox means "equal night", because the sun is positioned precisely above the equator, day and night are about equal in length.
People all over the world have recognized the Vernal Equinox for thousands of years. Many early peoples celebrated for the basic reason that their food supplies would soon be restored. The date is significant in Christianity because Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. It is also probably no coincidence that early Egyptians built the Great Sphinx so that it points directly toward the rising Sun on the day of the Vernal Equinox. In all instances, it is a moment to recognize the rebirth of the planet after its long winter's sleep, the season of new things growing, of renewal and rejuvenation.
We, as modern people surrounded by an overabundance of steel and concrete, can restore our connection to the Earth, to the cycles of the seasons, and to the rhythms of Nature in a recognition and celebration of the Equinox through a series of small, enjoyable rituals that children will love to do. It's also a great time for adults to honor the playful child within, to honor the body and its miraculous ability to regenerate itself, and to meditate on what it means to be "in balance".
The first thing to do is to create a small Springtime Altar in a central place in your house - kitchen window, fireplace mantel, part of a bookshelf - by asking everyone in the family to be on the lookout for things that remind them of this, the season of new things growing: bird's eggshells, flower petals, new green leaves, tree bark, feathers, and such. To symbolize the rebirth of light (longer days after the day of equinox), put egg shaped candles on the altar (they should remain unlit, of course, until they can be watched with adult supervision) and a small sack of multi-colored jelly beans for the "pledge to foolishness" to follow. Each member of the family can also contribute beautiful cut spring flowers - or found wild flowers - to a vase on the altar. This can be a rotating display for several weeks, as the old ones die and new ones are added.
On the morning of the equinox, play the song "Here Comes The Sun" by the Beatles. Let the youngest member of the family perform an old Celtic tradition, by facing East and stomping 9 times on the Earth and shouting: "Wake up!".
Each member of the family can then plant a seed (flower or vegetable) either in a clay pot or in the ground, and while planting the seed, declare something for themselves that they would like to plant for the future as well. For the kids it could be "try to read one more book a month", or "be nicer to little sister", or "get better at sharing" or "do homework when mom asks". For the adults: "spend more quality time with the kids", "find time to take more walks outdoors", "learn to cook more vegetarian meals", "try to read more books".
Then everyone in the family makes a pledge to do some foolish behavior (examples: wearing a silly hat all day, walking backwards whenever possible, wearing two different shoes, telling all you meet that your name is Clem Kadidillihopper) The oath to silliness is sealed by eating a jelly bean from the Springtime altar.
The final part of the ritual involves each member of the family expressing a wish or a blessing they would like to bestow on the family, and then writing these wishes/blessings on small strips of paper. (Mom or Dad writes for those who can't yet.) Tie the papers to the string of a green or yellow balloon filled with helium, and then let it go. Watch it float away for as long as possible. Randi Ragan has been studying, creating, and teaching others about the beauty and transformative power of rituals and ceremonies for over 15 years. She has formal training in the theater arts and dance, has written screenplays and made documentary films, and has taught yoga and meditation for the last 9 years. She has been involved in women's ceremonial circles since 1990, and is writing an illustrated non-fiction book about her current circle, and its artful use of ceremonies and rituals drawn from traditions as diverse as Jewish, Earth/Pagan, Buddhist, shamanistic, and Yogic/Hindu spirituality. Through her venture called The Blessing Works, Randi provides a wide array of custom-tailored ceremonies and rituals to mark important life events such as the birth of a baby, coming-of-age, milestone birthdays, a marriage/partner commitment, or death of a loved one. For more information visit www.theblessingworks.com, or contact her at (323) 257-5710, ext. #2.