Releasing the Old, Embracing the New: The Vernal Equinox 2023
The vernal equinox signifies growth, new beginnings, and the power of transformation. Photo: Inspired Images
Moving in alignment with the seasons isn’t just helpful when thinking about our eating habits, it can also be beneficial for the rhythm of our lives. Many of us make resolutions on January 1, the first day of the new year according to the calendar created by Roman emperor Julius Caesar. The month of January was named after the god Janus, who was associated with new beginnings. His double-faced head allowed him to look backward and forward. Despite this significance, it means that in the northern hemisphere, we make resolutions in winter. Winter is a time of rest and repose not only in nature but also in our bodies, and in some cases our lifestyles.
In contrast, many cultures across the world have celebrated, and continue to celebrate, the new year on the vernal equinox. The vernal equinox marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The Latin word ‘vernal’ translates to ‘new’ and ‘fresh’, while the word ‘equinox’ comes from the Latin words for ‘equal’ and ‘night’. Equinoxes occur two times a year. They are the only time of year when the sun rises exactly in the east and travels across the sky for nearly 12 hours to set exactly in the west. As a result, the hours of light and darkness are roughly equal. This year, the vernal equinox falls on 20 March.
Cherry blossom flowers are dormant most of the year but bloom as a harbinger of spring. In Japan, their brief blossoming is symbolic of beauty, impermanence, and fresh starts. Photo: Christina Brunk
From prehistoric times in cultures across the world, this astronomical event has been considered an auspicious time associated with fertility and renewal. As the days become longer and the sun’s energy returns, a wave of transformation and awakening is released. This seasonal transition is a reminder of the cyclical nature of life and the spiritual process of dying and rebirth. The equinox is the representation of seeds, new life, and new beginnings. It’s a powerful time to be in tune with the rhythms of nature and remind ourselves that we are part of a larger cycle of life. Because of this, Spring is a season when many people perform rituals to cleanse out old energy and to welcome the new.
We invite you to tap into the significance and energy of the vernal equinox along with us here at Nüssli118°. As we adjust mentally and physically to the transition from winter to spring, we’re taking inspiration from the practices and benefits associated with matcha. Closely intertwined with Zen Buddhism and mindfulness, this antioxidant-packed powdered green tea has been the center of the Japanese cultural and spiritual practice of the tea ceremony for centuries.
Matcha is made by grinding up the whole green tea leaf, which means it contains more nutrients and antioxidants than other types of green tea. Photo: Olga K.R.
Zen monks valued matcha for its restorative properties and for its ability to promote clarity of mind, and they drank it before meditating. These Zen roots speak to the deeper significance of the preparation and consumption of matcha for meditation. It is about being in the moment, appreciating life, and recognizing both its beauty and impermanence. We can be grateful for all aspects of our life while recognizing there are things that must come to an end to make way for new growth.
Perhaps you already meditate or are interested in starting a daily meditation practice. If so, Zen monks offer a great example to follow. Matcha and meditation are two powerful tools to find balance and improve mental and physical health. Matcha is rich in antioxidants and has been linked to numerous health benefits, including improved metabolic function, increased energy levels, and enhanced mental clarity. Meditation has been proven to reduce stress levels, improve concentration and focus, as well as boost overall mood. When combined, they can support your well-being.
The equinox is a time to reflect on how to achieve balance in our lives. Like balancing stones, this is both a meditative and creative endeavor. Photo: Marina Chernyakova
If you’re not interested in meditation, reflecting on lessons learned and growth experienced in the past season is a way of acknowledging this period of transition. Taking a few moments each day to notice the beauty around you, finding moments of joy in little things, and being more aware of daily activities are small ways to develop mindfulness and stay present.
However you choose to mark this vernal equinox, we hope you make time to reconnect with nature and with yourself to plant the seeds for a healthier, more balanced life. It’s a time to reassess dreams and goals or even create new ones. We can embrace the possibilities that the new season brings and use this energy to create something better and more meaningful. This is a time of hope and possibility and we can use this to our advantage.
- Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. "vernal equinox." Encyclopedia Britannica, August 24, 2022. https://www.britannica.com/science/vernal-equinox.
- Lori Cuthbert, Why the equinox ushers in the arrival of spring. National Geographic, March 6, 2023. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/equinoxes
- Joanna Kochman et al. “Health Benefits and Chemical Composition of Matcha Green Tea: A Review.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 26,1 85. 27 Dec. 2020, doi:10.3390/molecules26010085.
- Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. "tea ceremony." Encyclopedia Britannica, February 19, 2022. https://www.britannica.com/topic/tea-ceremony.
- Irene Seco, How samurai, statesmen, and scholars shaped the Japanese tea ceremony. National Geographic, November 19, 2021. https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/history-and-civilisation/2021/11/how-samurai-statesmen-and-scholars-shaped-the-japanese-tea-ceremony