(Photo by Chad Merda)
When it comes to spring, there's so much to love. The days become longer, giving us more time each day to enjoy the great outdoors. More and more birds are returning to the area every day, and animals we haven't seen since fall awaken from their slumber or come out of their winter homes. And don't forget about the color. The drab winter landscape slowly gives way, with green first added to the palette before becoming a full complement of color.
The arrival of spring makes us hopeful and optimistic, relishing warmer temperatures and more sunlight. Even rainy spring days are celebrated — for the puddles to jump in and for providing the water needed for the life all around us.
As much as we anticipate spring's arrival every year, there's a lot most of us don't know about the season. Add to your knowledge with these five facts.
It's Not Spring Everywhere
While you joyously celebrate the arrival of spring, Down Under and elsewhere in the southern hemisphere the most anticipated season is still months away. That's because the southern hemisphere experiences the seasons opposite from the northern hemisphere. The first day of spring in the northern hemisphere is the first day of fall in the southern hemisphere, and vice versa. Summer and winter are reversed too.
We experience seasons because Earth is tilted on its axis and it orbits the sun in an elliptical cycle that takes 365 1/4 days to complete, according to the National Weather Service. When Earth's axis points to the sun, it marks the beginning of summer; when it is pointed directly away from the sun, it marks the start of winter. Spring and fall begin when Earth reaches the midpoint of its axis point directly to or away from the sun.
RELATED: KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR THESE SIGNS OF SPRING
It Doesn't Start at the Same Time Each Year
The moment spring begins is precise, but it isn't the same time from year to year. This year, spring begins at 4:37 a.m. March 20. Some years, we are blessed with an extra day of spring. That was the case last year, when spring began March 19, marking the first time in 124 years that the season started March 19 in the entire continental United States.
Spring officially begins at the moment of the vernal equinox, which can fall on either March 19, March 20 or March 21. The vernal equinox occurs the moment Earth's equator passes through the sun's centerpoint. The same phenomenon also marks the beginning of fall, which occurs at the moment of the autumnal equinox.
Years with the earliest vernal equinoxes are leap years. Because Earth's full rotation doesn't take exactly 24 hours — it actually only takes 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds — we add one day to the annual calendar every four years in the form of leap day, AccuWeather reports.
Spring Fever Is a Real Thing
We've all probably been experiencing a bit of spring fever in recent days and weeks, but it will probably surprise you to learn that spring fever really exists, although you won't find it in any diagnostic manual.
For many people, the arrival of spring causes noticeable changes in their physical and mental health. Some experience a flushed face, an increased heart rate, restlessness and loss of appetite, Scientific American reports.
“It manifests in different ways,” Dr. Normal Rosenthal, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine and expert on seasonal affective disorder, told NBC News. “Sometimes it’s a sheer exuberance. People are smiling, laughing and celebrating the return of longer days and warmer weather. It’s a fever in the best sense of the word. We feel amorous. As the poet Tennyson said, ‘In spring, a young man’s fancy likely turns to thoughts of love.’”
The cause of spring fever isn't fully understood, but the changes are thought to be tied to changes in daylight. As seasons change, our retinas begin to react to changes in light, WebMD reports. As light changes, it signals our bodies to alter hormone production, including the production of melatonin, a hormone that affects mood changes and sleep cycles.
As we begin to experience more daylight, people can find that they have a boost in energy. Those with seasonal affective disorder, caused by lower melatonin levels in winter, will see symptoms begin to lift, according to WebMD. In addition, people who have bipolar disorder may experience more manic episodes in the spring.
It's a Time of Celebration
Around the world, spring is cause for celebration. In Iran and for Persians across the world, the first day of spring is also the first day of the new year, and the celebration is called Nowruz, which translates to "new day," National Geographic reports. In ancient Persia, Nowruz was a celebration of spring's victory over darkness. Despite tumult in Iran and the surrounding region, the celebration has persisted for thousands of years to mark the arrival of spring. Traditional Nowruz celebrations include seeds and eggs, because the focus of the celebration is new life and fertility.
In Hindu culture, the arrival of spring is celebrated with Holi, also known as the festival of color, according to National Geographic. Holi is celebrated on the day after the last full moon of the Hindu month of Phalguna, and it marks the transition from the harsh winter months to spring. Holi is celebrated in many ways. The most well-known is throwing and spraying brightly colored powders and water, creating a riot of color in large public gatherings.
Some festivities celebrating the arrival of spring are a little more unusual. The Bosnian town of Zenica celebrates Cimburijada, which is a festival of scrambled eggs. Yes, that's right. The people of Zenica mark spring's arrival with a massive pan of scrambled eggs, shared by festival goers, the BBC reports. Why eggs? They are a traditional symbol of spring.
Outside Mexico City, people flock to the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico, on the day of the spring equinox. Many will dress in white, and the crowds will walk up the steps of the temple in early morning to watch the sun rise over the Apan Mountains, according to the BBC.
Spring Really Is Growing Season
We think of spring as a time of growth and renewal, but the idea that spring is growing season extends beyond the plant world. Weird as it may seem, children actually grow faster during spring than any other time of year, KidsHealth reports.
In the plant kingdom, growing season is from spring to fall. Summer is the season of most growth for plants, because we receive the most direct sunlight in summer, according to the University of California Santa Barbara. But we probably tend to notice plant growth most in spring, because it is long awaited and drastically changes how the landscape looks as we transition away from winter.
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