When I think of the First Day of Spring, I imagine a picturesque scene with warm sunlight, cheerful singing and a girl dancing around with a bird chirping on her finger. Yes, I realize that my mental image sounds a lot like a Disney cartoon but for some reason the phrase sounds magical to me. I usually get a rude awakening every year when I look out the window with bleary eyes to find it’s dark, there’s snow, and no birds are waiting to sit on my finger. But year after year when I hear that the First Day of Spring is coming, I can’t help but lose myself momentarily in my imagination.
If you can’t tell, I’ve always liked a good story. Stories are often far more interesting to me than the simple truth. It turns out that the First Day of Spring is a perfect example of that, though science-lovers might be amazed by the Vernal Equinox story. Astronomically speaking, spring has begun and there will be equal parts day and night because of the sun shining directly on the earth in just the right spot. I love the stars and astronomy, but I much prefer the Persephone myth when it comes to explaining the change of seasons.
In Greek legend, Persephone was abducted by the god of the underworld, Hades. Her mother Demeter (the goddess of harvest) desperately searches for her lost daughter and in her grief-stricken state, the seasons are halted and plants begin to die. Zeus, Persephone’s father, fears for the extinction of life on earth and negotiates a deal with Hades to release Persephone. In the end, however, Persephone is bound to Hades in the underworld for one season every year – winter. Spring marks her return to the upper world when Demeter’s grief over her lost daughter comes to an end.