Situated less than two hours inland from the Mexican Caribbean Sea and the heart of the Riviera Maya in downtown Playa del Carmen, the ancient Mayan city of Chichén Itzá a is the site of an age-old drama every year on the Spring Equinox, which always occurs on March 19, 20 or 21. In 2017, Mexico travel guides show the Spring Equinox for the entire Northern Hemisphere was on Monday, March 20 at 6:28 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
“During each spring and fall equinox in Chichén Itzá, the great pyramid of Kukulcán visually represents day and night as the sun, serpent-like, slithers down its staircase and reveals the pattern play of time upon its ancient ruins,” stated event organizers for this spring and fall’s official events, Equinox at the Temple Kukulcán. “In celebration of Mayan achievements in astronomy and the culture’s fixation on time and its passing, people gather at the pyramid twice a year out of respect and admiration for the dew-drenched Mayan pyramid in all its history and glory.”
What is the Spring Equinox?
The Earth has two equinoxes every year – one in the spring during March and one in the fall during September. An equinox happens whenever the sun shines directly on the Earth’s equator, which creates nearly equal periods of day and night. The March equinox also signifies the coming of Spring when the sun crosses the celestial equator from south to north.
“The word ‘equinox’ means ‘equal night,’ referring to the fact that on this day, the hours of daylight and night are the same,” wrote About Travel. “In many places in Mexico there are spring festivals )festivales de primavera) that take place to celebrate the beginning of spring.”
Many communities also hold children’s parades to celebrate the Spring Equinox. Other archaeological sites in Mexico, including Teotihuacan near Mexico City and El Tajín in the state of Veracruz, also hold colorful celebrations and perform ancient rituals to mark the occasion.
Spring Equinox at Chichén Itzá
Each year in the Riviera Maya and throughout Mexico’s Yucatan state – which are home to prime real estate in Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Campeche and Merida – the Spring Equinox is greatly anticipated because of the awe-inspiring show put on by the ancient Mayans at the great pyramid of Kukulcán. On each of the pyramid’s faces, there are four staircases that run from the top to the bottom, all constructed at a carefully calculated angle that makes it appear as though an enormous serpent is slithering down the stairs during the equinox!
Of course, the snake is just an illusion created from the shadow that is cast by sunlight, but the spectacular show lasts for about an hour and always draws a large crowd. Although the serpent reappears for a few days, it is always most dramatic on the actual equinox.
Around the world and in Mexico, the Spring Equinox is celebrated generally as a time of fertility, regeneration and rebirth. Even the date of Easter is calculated according to the date of the Spring Equinox, with Easter falling on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Spring Equinox in the Western Church.
So are you coming next year to see the Spring Equinox come to life at Chichén Itzá?