Happy Shunbun-no-hi to our readers in Japan – we hope you’re all enjoying the 3-day weekend! Do you know how to say Shunbun-no-hi in English? Although it translates directly as “Day of Spring”, a better name for it is actually “Vernal Equinox Day” (‘vernal’ is an adjective for ‘Spring’).
The word ‘equinox’ is used for the two days of the year when day and night are of equal length – Vernal (Spring) Equinox on March 21st (春分の日), and Autumnal Equinox on September 21st (秋分の日). Two other days with special names are the longest day of the year on June 21st, and the shortest day of the year on December 21st. These are called Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice.
Although these days aren’t holidays in the UK today, it’s believed that they were of great importance to the ancient British people. Do you know the World Heritage Site called Stonehenge? It’s a 3,000 year old stone circle in southern England, which was built so that the light from the rising sun on Summer Solstice and the setting sun on Winter Solstice passes directly through the middle of the circle. Because the ancient people didn’t have writing we don’t really know exactly what they did at Stonehenge, but many people still gather there every year for festivals on these dates (summer is much more popular because it’s too cold in winter!)
Have you ever been to Stonehenge? Let us know what you thought!
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