Usage of Equinoxes and Solstice in Cultures

My first work as an engineer was programming worldwide traffic lights, with the need of a holiday calendar. It occurred me the a lot could be done with Spring and Fall Equinoxes (times of equal-length day and night) and the Summer and Winter Solstices (longest and shortest day, respectively) which have been recognized in all cultures. There are only four points in a solar year to which the lunar year may be anchored: vernal (spring) equinox; summer solstice; autumnal equinox; and winter solstice.(1) Different pagan civilizations used these different points as anchors, tying the lunar year to the longer solar year. Egyptians, watching for the rise of the star, Sirius, tied the beginning of their year to the summer solstice. The Indians of South America used the winter solstice.Depending upon the particular culture, the year began at different times. All ancient calendars were originally lunisolar. Because the lunar year is 11 days shorter than the solar year, it is necessary to have an anchor point which ties the lunar year to the longer solar year. Without this anchor point, holy festivals drift backward through the year by 11 days, from one year to the next.

As the muslim calendar does not fit within all other cultures I needed an exception table in my program: Ramadan drifts all through the solar calendar year. The Islamic calendar is not to be confused with a lunar calendar that is based on astronomical calculations (12 months adding up to 354.37 days). Each lunar month begins at the time of the monthly “conjunction”, when the Moon is located on a straight line between the Earth and the Sun. The Islamic calendar, however, the first day of each month is based on the first sighting of the hilal (crescent moon) shortly after sunset. If the hilal is not observed immediately after the 29th day of a month (either because clouds block its view or because the western sky is still too bright when the moon sets), then the day that begins at that sunset is the 30th. A sighting has to be made by one or more trustworthy men testifying before a committee of Muslim leaders. That lead to an astronomy with lots of observing ( and Rabic star names) and clerical controlled and refined incorrect understanding, but also to beautiful astrolabe based on Greek orthographic projection.

In current usage these each define the official beginning of a season — for example, summer begins’ around June 21st. Due to the insertion of a Leap Day on February 29th every four years, the exact dates of these astronomical events shift back and forth, with a total range of about 54 hours.  Ancient people were very attentive to seasons and the Sun’s position in the sky, because their livelihood depended on planting and harvesting at the proper times (in relation to temperature and water). All eight of those special days were observed as pagan holidays of one sort or another. Occurring twice a year, there are two points of intersection by the Sun called the equinoctial points: (1) vernal and (2) autumnal. At this moment, the center of the Sun is observed vertically overhead on the Earth’s Equator -March 20/21 (Vernal) and September 22/23 (Autumnal) annually. So what does have to do with the relationship between Easter and the Vernal Equinox?

History has it that the death and resurrection of the Son of God occurred during the Jewish Passover, always celebrated on the first full moon after the vernal equinox occurs.  According to the Council of Nicaea, in 325CE it was decreed that Easter would be celebrated the first full moon “on or after the March equinox”. If the full moon falls on Sunday, Easter is delayed one week or else it could fall on the same day as the Jewish Passover.This insures that Easter Sunday and the modern rabbinical Passover never coincide. Because of this the equinox not only determines when we are going to have Easter but many other moveable holidays and feasts that are not dependent on the Gregorian or Julian calendars—Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Ascension Day, Pentecost, or Holy Thursday all centered around the resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God. It was during Egypt’s Christian period from c.200-639 that the ancient Egyptian holiday, “Sham El Nessim”, began to be celebrated on Easter Monday, previously coinciding with the vernal equinox.

JANUARY

  • 1
    • Mary, Mother of God – Catholic Christian
    • Feast of St Basil – Orthodox Christian
    • Gantan-sai (New Years) – Shinto
    • Holy Name of Jesus – Orthodox Christian
  • 5
    • Twelfth Night – Christian
    • Guru Gobindh Singh birthday – Sikh
  • 6
    • Epiphany – Christian
    • Feast of the Theophany – Orthodox Christian
    • Dia de los Reyes – Christian
    • Nativity of Christ – Armenian Orthodox
  • 7
    • Nativity of Christ ** – Orthodox Christian
  • 13
    • Baptism of the Lord Jesus – Christian
    • Maghi – Sikh
  • 15
    • World Religion Day – Baha’i
  • 17
    • Blessing of the Animals – Hispanic Catholic Christian
  • 18-25
    • Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – Christian
  • 19
    • Timkat- Ethiopian Orthodox Christian
  • 20
    • World Religion Day – Baha’i
  • 24
    • Mawlid an Nabi * ** – Islam
  • 25
    • Conversion of Saint Paul – Christian
  • 26
    • Tu BiShvat * – Jewish
  • 27-30
    • Mahayana New Year ** – Buddhist

FEBRUARY

  • 2
    • Candlemas – Christian
    • Presentation of Christ in the Temple – Anglican Christian
    • Saint Brighid of Kildare – Celtic Christian
    • Imbolc and Sughnassad * – Wicca/Pagan Northern and southern hemispheres
  • 3
    • Four Chaplains Sunday- Interfaith
    • Setsubun-sai – Shinto
·        6
    • Transfiguration Sunday – Christian

 

2nd New Moon after Winter Solstice (lunar calendar)

 

    • Chinese New Year – Confucian, Daoist, Buddhist
  • 12
    • Shrove Tuesday – Christian
  • 13
    • Ash Wednesday – Lent begins through March 23  Christian
  • 14
    • Nirvana Day ** – Buddhist
    • Valentine’s Day – Christian
  • 15
    • Vasant Panchami ** – Hindu
    • Nirvana ** – Jain
  • 24
    • Purim * – Jewish
    • Triodion begins – Orthodox Christian
  • 26 – March 1
    • Intercalary Days * – Baha’i

MARCH

  • 1
    • Saint David of Wales – Christian
  • 2 -20
    • Nineteen Day Fast * – Baha’i
  • 10
    • Meatfare Sunday – Orthodox Christian
    • Maha Shivaratri – Hindu
  • 13
    • L. Ron Hubbard birthday – Scientology
  • 17
    • St Patrick’s Day – Christian
    • Cheesefare Sunday – Orthodox Christian
  • 18
    • Clean Monday – Lent begins – Orthodox Christian
  • 19
    • Saint Joseph’s Day – Christian
Spring (Vernal) Equinox
     
  Full Moon after SE - Passover
  Following Sunday   - Easter
  Previous Friday    - Good Friday
 
  • 20  Equinox
    • Ostara * – Wicca/Pagan northern hemisphere (Saxon goddess of Spring) 
    • Mabon * – Wicca/Pagan southern hemisphere
  • 21
    • Naw Ruz (New Year) * – Baha’i
    • Norouz (New Year) – Persian/Zoroastrian
  • 24
    • Orthodox Sunday – Orthodox Christian
    • Palm Sunday – Christian
  • 25
    • Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin – Christian
  •  
    • Pesach (Passover) First two days * – Judaism
  • 26
    • Khordad Sal (Birth of Prophet Zaranhushtra) Zoroastrian
  • 27
    • Magha Puja Day ** – Buddhist
    • Lord’s Evening Meal – Jehovah’s Witness Christian
    • Holi ** – Hindu
  • 28
    • Maundy Thursday – Christian
    • Hola Mohalla – Sikh
    • Birth of Prophet Zarathushtra ** – Zoroastrian
  •  
    • Good Friday – Christian
  •  
    • Easter – Christian

APRIL  

  • 2
    • Pesach  – Last two days * –  Jewish
  • 7
    • Yom HaShoah * – Jewish
  • 11
    • Hindu New Year ** – Hindu
  • 11-20
    • Ramayana ** – Hindu
  • 14
    • Baisakhi – New Year – Sikh
  • 15
    • Yom Ha’Atzmaut* – Jewish
  • 20
    • Ramanavani ** – Hindu
  • 21
    • First Day of Ridvan * – Baha’i
  • 23
    • St. George Day – Christian
  • 25
    • Hanuman Jayanti ** – Hindu
    • Mahavir Jayanti ** – Jain
  • 25-28
    • Therevadin New Year ** – Buddhist
  • 27
    • Lazarus Saturday – Orthodox Christian
  • 28
    • Lag B’Omer * – Jewish
    • Palm Sunday – Orthodox Christian
  • 29
    • Ninth Day of Ridvan * – Baha’i

MAY

  • 1
    • Beltane and Samhain * – Wicca/Pagan Northern and southern hemispheres
  • 2
    • Twelfth Day of Ridvan * – Baha’i
    • National Day of Prayer USA – Interfaith
  • 3
    • Holy Friday – Orthodox Christian
  • 5
    • Easter/Pascha – Orthodox Christian
  • 9
    • Ascension Day – Christian
  • 15-16
    • Shavuot * – Jewish
  • 19
    • Pentecost (Whit Sunday) – Christian
  • 23
    • Declaration of the Bab * – Baha’i
  • 25
    • Visakha Puja – Buddha Day ** – Buddhist
  • 26
    • Trinity Sunday – Christian
  • 29
    • Ascension of Baha’u’llah * – Baha’i
  • 30
    • Corpus Christi – Catholic Christian

JUNE

  • 5
    • Lailat al Miraj * ** – Islam
  • 7
    • Sacred Heart of Jesus – Catholic Christian
  • 13
    • Ascension of Jesus – Orthodox Christian
  • 16
    • Guru Arjan Dev martyrdom – Sikh
  • 19
    • New Church Day – Swedenborgian Christian

 

June 20-22        Summer Solstice
  • 21 Solstice
    • Litha * – Wicca/Pagan northern hemisphere
    • Yule * – Wicca/Pagan southern hemisphere
  • 23
    • Lailat al Bara’ah * ** – Islam
    • Pentecost – Orthodox Christian
  • 24
    • Lailat al Bara’ah * – Islam
  • 29
    • Saints Peter and Paul – Christian
  • 30
    • All Saints – Orthodox Christian

JULY

  •  
    • Ramadan begins * ** – Islam
    • Martyrdom of the Bab * – Baha’i
  • 11
    • Saint Benedict Day – Christian
  • 13-15
    • Obon ** – Shinto -Buddhist
  • 15
    • Saint Vladimir Day – Christian
  • 16
    • Tish’a B’Av* – Judaism
  • 22
    • Asalhka Puja Day ** – Buddhist
  • 24
    • Pioneer Day – Mormon Christian

AUGUST

  • 1
    • Fast in Honor of the Holy Mother of Jesus – Orthodox Christian
    • Lammas – Christian
    • Lughnassad and Imbolc * ** – Wicca/Pagan Northern and southern hemispheres
  • 3
    • Laylat al Kadr * – Islam
  • 6
    • Transfiguration of the Lord – Orthodox Christian
  •  
    • Eid al Fitr * ** – Islam
  • 15
    • Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Catholic Christian
    • Dormition of the Theotokos _ Orthodox Christian
  • 21
    • Raksha Bandhan ** – Hindu
  • 28
    • Krishna Janmashtami ** – Hindu
  • 29
    • Beheading of John the Baptist – Christian

SEPTEMBER

  • 1
    • Ecclesiastical Year begins – Orthodox Christian
  • 5-6
    • Rosh Hashanah * – Jewish
  • 9
    • Ganesh Chaturthi ** – Hindu
  • 10
    • Paryushana Parva ** – Jain
  • 14
    • Yom Kippur* – Jewish
    • Elevation of the Life Giving Cross – Holy Cross Day – Christian
  • 19-25
    • Sukkot* – Jewish
September 21-24           Fall (Autumnal) Equinox
  • 22 Equinox
    • Mabon * – Wicca/Pagan northern hemisphere
    • Ostara * – Wicca/Pagan southern hemisphere
  • 26
    • Shemini Atzeret * – Jewish
  • 27
    • Simchat Torah * – Jewish
    • Meskel – Ethiopian Christian
  • 29
    • Michael and All Angels – Christian

OCTOBER

  • 4
    • Saint Francis Day – Catholic Christian
  • 5-13
    • Navaratri ** – Hindu
  •  
    • Waqf al Arafa – Hajj Day * ** – Islam
  • 14
    • Thanksgiving – Canada – Interfaith
    • Dasera ** – Hindu
  •   
    • Eid al Adha * ** – Islam
  • 18
    • Saint Luke – Apostle and Evangelist – Christian
  • 20
    • Birth of the Báb * – Baha’i
    • Installation of Scriptures as Guru Granth – Sikh
  • 27
    • Reformation Day ** – Protestant Christian
  • 31
    • All Hallows Eve – Christian

NOVEMBER

  • 1
    • All Saints Day – Christian
    • Samhain and Beltane * – Wicca/Pagan Northern and Southern hemispheres
  • 1-5
    • Deepavali ** – Hindu
  • 2
    • All Soul’s Day – Catholic Christian
  • 3
    • Diwali – Deepavali ** – Hindu – Jain – Sikh
    • Jain New Year ** – Jain
  •  
    • Hijra –  New Year * ** – Islam
  • 12
    • Birth of Baha’u’llah * – Bahai
  •  
    • Ashura * ** – Islam
  • 4
    • Christ the King – Christian
  • 14
    • Winter Lent begins to 12/25 – Orthodox Christian
  • 17
    • Guru Nanak Dev Sahib birthday – Sikh
  • 21
    • Yule – Christian
  • 24
    • Guru Tegh Bahadur Martyrdom – Sikh
  • 26
    • Day of the Covenant * – Baha’i
  • 28
    • Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha * – Baha’i
    • Thanksgiving – USA – Interfaith
  • 28-Dec 5
    • Hanukkah * – Judaism
  • 30
    • Saint Andrew’s Day – Christian

DECEMBER

  • 1 through 24
    • Advent (first Sunday) – Christian
  • 6
    • Saint Nicholas Day – Christian
  • 8
    • Rohatsu – Bodhi Day ** – Buddhist
    • Immaculate Conception of Mary – Catholic Christian
  • 12
    • Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe – Catholic Christian
  • 16-25
    • Posadas Navidenas – Christian

 

December 20-23            Winter Solstice
  • 21  Solstice
    • Yule * (Norse for “wheel”) – Germanic 12-day feastnorthern hemisphere
    • Litha * – Wicca/Pagan southern hemisphere
    • Yule – Christian
  • 24
    • Christmas Eve – Christian
  • 25
    • Christmas * – Christian
  • 26
    • Zarathosht Diso (Death of Prophet Zarathushtra)** – Zoroastrian
  • 28
    • Holy Innocents – Christian
  • 29
    • Feast of the Holy Family – Catholic Christian
  • 31
    • Western New Year Watch Night – Christian

** * Islam is unfitting only examples given

* and ** related dates examples 2013

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