Spring is the season of new beginnings. Fresh buds bloom and animals awaken and the earth seems to come to life again. Farmers and gardeners plant their seeds, and temperatures slowly rise. Changes vary depending upon location, as most equatorial regions see fairly constant temperatures throughout the year.
What most people call spring relies on the astronomical definition of the word, the period between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Defined by the angle of Earth's tilt toward the sun, astronomical spring relies on equinoxes and solstices to define it.
Equinoxes are special days during the year when day and night are almost equal. There are two equinoxes, one in the spring and one in the fall. The spring, or vernal, equinox occurs around March 21 in the Northern Hemisphere and around September 21 in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the North Pole is tipped at its greatest angle toward the sun during the summer solstice, which occurs around June 21. In the Southern Hemisphere, around December 21, it is the South Pole's turn to be nearer. As such, in the Northern Hemisphere, astronomical spring runs from March 21 to June 21, while in the Southern Hemisphere it encompasses September 21 to December 21, thought he dates may shift slightly from year to year. [Infographic: Earth's Equinoxes & Solstices]
But the air may lose its winter chill before the middle of March or September. Weather forecasters define meteorological spring as a three-month period of time based on the rising temperatures. North of the equator, meteorological spring takes place in March, April and May, while in the south it is characterized by the months of September, October and November.
Warmer temperatures means the ground, which may have frozen over the winter months, grows softer and more yielding to plants. Spring is often marked by increased rainfall, which helps to water the infant seeds taking root in the ground.
Animals that spent the winter in hibernation come out of their dens, while those that traveled to warmer regions return. Many animals give birth in the spring. Winter coats are shed by those that sported them, and some animals may change coloration to blend in with their new surroundings.
The rising rainfall of spring may bring with it an increase in flooding as melting snow overwhelms rivers. Spring may also boast storms, as warm air from the equator combines with still-cool air farther north or south. Tornadoes are common during the spring in the United States as air of different temperatures combine. [Related: 6 Signs Spring Has Sprung]
A time of celebration
Many cultures celebrate the return of spring, or the rise of the vernal equinox.
Passover is celebrated by those of Jewish faith. Linked with the book of Exodus, Passover commemorates when the Jewish people were freed from slavery to Egypt. The day falls on the first full moon after the northern spring equinox and lasts for seven days.
Celebrated by Christians, Easter takes its roots from the Jewish Passover festival. The celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion, Easter falls at the end of Passover. Today, many ways of celebrating Easter — Easter eggs, baskets, and bunnies — have risen from celebrations of the vernal equinox and the rise of spring to combine with the religious holiday.
May Day is a spring festival born from a Celtic festival, though as Christianity spread through Europe, many of the pagan elements were dropped. Celebrants might wind ribbons around a May pole as they dance around it.
Albania celebrates Dita e Verës on March 14, which also stems from pagan roots. Pilgrimages were once made to the peaks of the Albanian mountains, where prayers were offered to the Sun God for a prosperous year.
It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!
— Mark Twain
Life stands before me like an eternal spring with new and brilliant clothes.
— Carl Friedrich Gauss
Spring is nature's way of saying, "Let's party!"
— Robin Williams
Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!
— Sitting Bull
O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?
— Percy Bysshe Shelley
In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.
— Margaret Atwood
Spring is God's way of saying, 'One more time!'
— Robert Orben
Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses, a box where sweets compacted lie.
— George Herbert
Autumn arrives in early morning, but spring at the close of a winter day.
— Elizabeth Bowen
Sweet April showers do spring May flowers.
— Thomas Tusser