Saturday, February 28, 2015

Still Life With Robin: Call It Spring

Photo by Michael Malak, public domain
via Wikimedia Commons
by Peggy Robin

Yes, it’s true: Tomorrow, March 1, is the first day of spring.

“Oh no!” I hear you all object, “The first day of spring this year falls on March 20 -- the vernal equinox.”  You run to your wall calendar and point the date to see confirmation of what you believe to be true.  You Google it and that’s the answer that comes up:

But you haven’t won the argument yet! It’s spring on March 20 only if we’re talking about the “astronomical spring.” I’m talking about the traditional old English definition of spring, also called meterological spring (see: or climatological spring (see (  The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains all three terms well:

To me, March 1 is the better date, and here are my reasons:
  •  March 1 is a fixed date, while the equinox can float around the calendar, from the 20th to the 21st or 22nd and in some years, even the 23rd. This leads to a lot of unnecessary confusion, uncertainty, and even anxiety about when spring will arrive.
  • We all know flowers bloom in the spring, but there are plenty of types that bloom before March 20. If spring starts on March 1, there’s no anomaly to contend with – all those crocuses are indeed spring-blooming flowers!
  • Welcoming spring on March 1 takes nothing away from the Vernal Equinox. You can still mark that date as a special event -- which it is. So let’s not conflate that astronomical event with the start of the new season, and then we’ll have two distinct and equally worthy events to celebrate.
  • Starting seasons on the 1st leads to a nice, tidy division of the calendar into 4 seasons, each 3 months long, making for concise descriptions of the seasons, avoiding cumbersome calculations and pro-rating of 3 weeks of the month into this season and one week into that season – much better for bookkeeping.
  • By tomorrow the sub-freezing temperatures will have passed and we’ll be warming up all week, possibly hitting a high of 62 F on Wednesday ( Now that’s spring-like weather!
  •  And finally, most importantly, by March 1st we are really, really sick of winter, and are more than ready to call it spring. Let’s not delay it by another three weeks!


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland ParkListserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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