We all did it this week: the Spring Forward of Daylight Saving Time, losing an hour of sleep over the weekend, and getting the payoff of seeing our days seem to magically lengthen with more daylight. Already it feels like we have more time in the day, with the long, golden twilights of Summer to come.
Every year our Daylight Saving cycles sync up with equinoxes, or the moments when the sun appears positioned directly above the equator. In the Northern Hemisphere, this means the beginning of Spring (yay!) after the long, cold months of Winter.
If it feels like we’ve turned a corner, it’s because we have. And that little spark of optimism you might be feeling is nothing new. This is a landmark time in the year that humans have celebrated throughout recorded history:
- Equinox celebrations and commemorations are part of the culture and calendars of the indigenous and ancient peoples of North and Central America, East Asia, and Scandinavia.
- Easter is marked on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring (Vernal) Equinox.
- In Chichen Itza, in the Yucatan state of Mexico, thousands of people arrive for the equinox, as they have for centuries, to watch the shadow of a snake descend down the face of a Mayan pyramid.
- The Jewish Passover is timed, generally, to the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox (less often, it falls on the second).
- Sham El-Nessim is an Equinox-centered holiday celebrated in Egypt today with roots that go back more than 4,500 years.
- Verbal Equinox Day is celebrated in Japan with an emphasis on family past and present.
- Calendars old and new, including the Babylonian, Persian, and Indian, mark their new year around the Spring Equinox.
As we look ahead to Spring (with a nod to our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, who are moving into their Winter), we also have to note that some have observed downsides to our Springtime adjustment (other than having to figure out how to reset the clock on that pesky microwave).
The hour of sleep we lost during the Spring reset has been linked to increases in car accidents and emergency room visits. Many of us enter the week feeling groggy, or oversleeping, or noticing that our pets seem off-kilter in their schedules (you barely need to own a clock when you have a dog that alerts you when dinnertime rolls around).
How Long Has This Been Going On?
You might not know that Daylight Saving Time is a relatively new phenomenon. Germany was the first country to adopt it, all the way back in 1916, and the United States did the same a mere two years later. This is also when we put in place our familiar four time zones in the Continental U.S. After a hiatus during World War I, Daylight Savings returned during World War II and has been in place ever since.
(To our friends in Hawaii and Arizona, we know you don’t observe Daylight Savings. We love how you do you!)
While Germany was the first nation to adopt DST, we also have to give a nod to Canada, where Port Arthur, Ontario, was the first city to adopt it -- all the way back in 1908! And no less a figure than Winston Churchill was a big Daylight Saving fan, saying that it broadened “opportunities for the pursuit of health and happiness.”
And if there’s one thing we’re all about here at Manitoba Harvest, it’s health and happiness. (OK, we guess that’s two things, but they go together so beautifully!) Life is meant to be enjoyed in balance, which is why we always love the symbolism of the equinoxes and how they mark the transitions in life from one phase to another. (The equinox that takes us into Winter also has its special brand of yumminess, but it’s hard to compete with the energy and anticipation of Spring’s arrival.)
We’d like to make a case for taking a moment to recognize the importance of this equinox as a moment in the great cycle of life. Those of us up north are seeing the sun getting brighter, the streams and ponds thawing, the birds beginning to sing again, and we can just feel how the flowers and trees will be blooming any day.
It’s a great opportunity, if you weren’t already, to start getting outside, soaking up the sunshine, and moving around to help activate the joy of life. Everything is a cycle, after all, and this year especially we have no shortage of reasons to celebrate emerging from winter’s long tunnel and moving toward the light.