First day of spring and the new year

        Itís the first day of spring. Or is it? Itís the first day of the new year. Or is it?

        Time and its reckoning are totally subjective and not scientific. Scientifically speaking, during the calendar year, there are two solstices (summer and winter) and two equinoxes (spring and autumn). "Equinox" is a Latin word that means "equal night," which explains that there are twelve hours each of daylight and night.

        Yesterday was this yearís vernal equinox and was also celebrated in many countries as the first day of spring.

        In addition to teaching our children about various spring rituals, we can also explain to them that different cultures and religions have a variety of ways to pinpoint and celebrate the seasons and the beginnings of the years as well.

        There are places where yesterday was not noted as the first day of spring. In Romania it was March 1. In Japan, it depends on the appearance of the first cherry blossoms, which means that even within the same country, the first day of spring will vary, depending on how far north or south one is.

        And let us not forget the southern hemisphere. In this half of the world, the seasons are opposite ours, so the summer is now coming to a close and autumn is beginning in such places as Australia and the southern parts of Africa and South America.

        There are also different starting dates for the new year. The Persian new year, Norooz, coincides with the vernal equinox. It is a time of renewal, as are most spring celebrations. There are seven foods that are associated with this day. Each starts with the "s" sound in Farsi, the Persian language. In English, these foods are grain pudding, vinegar, garlic, green sprouts, apples, sumac, and a date-like fruit.

        Parents and teachers are in a position to teach our children that are many ways to acknowledge and celebrate these events. Doing things differently from others does not make them or us wrong or right --- just different. And we do what we can to learn about others from both their similarities and their differences.

Jay Davidson has been teaching in San Francisco since 1969; he teaches first grade. His column appears Thursdays in the Daily News. He is the author of Teach Your Children Well: A Teacherís Advice for Parents, which is available at and wherever books are sold.

This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children Well: A Teacherís  Advice for Parents.

All columns are copyright © Jay Davidson.  Permission is hereby granted for individuals to download and copy them for individual use.  There is a modest charge for printing these columns in any publication.  To receive that permission, contact   Jay Davidson