Thursday, March 20, 2008

Springing into action

The sun is crossing our celestial equator! The equinox is a magical day - legend has it that on the spring equinox you can balance an egg on its end. Snopes tells me that this legend is false, and is linked with all the egg business of spring (decorating, hiding, putting in baskets, etc.) A little more research reveals this:

As reported by Gardner in the Skeptical Inquirer (May/June 1996, page 8), the legend was born with an article penned by Annalee Jacoby in the March 19, 1945 issue of Life magazine. Ms. Jacoby was on assignment in China at that time, when she witnessed a peculiar Chinese ritual. According to Chinese legend, it is easier to stand an egg on end on what they call the first day of spring (which is in early February). The Chinese legend, unfortunately, has an uncertain origin, though it is propagated through old books about Chinese rituals. Ms. Jacoby was in the capital city of Chunking on Li Chun when a crowd of people came to balance eggs. It must have been quite a sight, and so she wrote about it for Life.

Evidently, the United Press picked up the story and promptly sent it out over the wire. At that moment, a legend was born.

What's funny about this is that Ms. Jacoby evidently reported that the event occurred on the first day of spring, but it was never said (or else it was conveniently forgotten) that the first day of spring in China is a month and half before the first day of spring as recognized by Americans! The legend now states that you can only stand an egg on end at the equinox, yet the legend started because the Chinese were standing them up six weeks earlier. Ironically, the very basis of this legend is wrong!

(from Bad Astronomy)

I enjoy reading about the pagan springtime celebrations from which our spring holidays originate.

Ostara (sometimes spelled OEstera, or Easter), the Germanic fertility Goddess, was associated with human and crop fertility. On the spring equinox, she mated with the solar god and conceived a child that would be born 9 months later on December 21: Yule, the winter solstice.

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