Spring Equinox Brings Balance, At Least To Eggs

New Yorkers balance eggs at the South Street Seaport Saturday. Margot Adler/NPR i i

New Yorkers balance eggs at the South Street Seaport on Saturday. Margot Adler/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Margot Adler/NPR
New Yorkers balance eggs at the South Street Seaport Saturday. Margot Adler/NPR

New Yorkers balance eggs at the South Street Seaport on Saturday.

Margot Adler/NPR

Saturday was the vernal equinox, the first moment of spring, and a time when the periods of light and dark are equal. Last year, Donna Henes greeted the spring equinox in a snowstorm at around 4 in the morning. But this Saturday was different.

Henes, who calls herself an urban shaman, has been conducting public ceremonies in New York City for 35 years. Since she does these celebrations at the precise moment of equinox or solstice, they're often at inconvenient times for human beings. This year, the first moment of spring came at 1:32 p.m. on a weekend, in glorious, 70-degree weather. So this time, more than 100 people were there at the South Street Seaport to participate in Henes' ceremony, Eggs Standing.

"You can whisper your wishes, you can sing your wishes, you don't have to say anything — you can just think your wishes — but bless our circle," she told the crowd.

Henes asked the children to walk around an orange circle of cloth four times, one for each solstice and equinox, and think good wishes. She blessed everyone, and suddenly the moment had come.

"You know what? It's not winter anymore," she announced to applause. People began taking eggs from a large basket and trying to stand them upright.

It's pretty easy. Soon, almost all of the eggs were standing, with only two cracking open.

Rob, Heather and Abigail Lieberman from Robbinsville, N.J., were making it a family affair. "This is really neat," Rob said. "It's a good way to celebrate the first day of spring."

Eggs have always been a symbol of spring and fertility. In Greece, red eggs are given out at Easter. Rolling eggs — which we know from the egg roll on the White House lawn — actually goes back thousands of years. But this celebration is about balance as well as renewal, since the periods of light and dark are equal.

Now, scientists and schoolteachers will tell you that you can stand an egg upright at any time and that the spring and fall equinoxes don't have anything special about them. But Henes says this celebration is really about balance within. She wants participants to think about what balance might mean for them — and for the planet.

"I always ask people to please walk on the Earth as if they were stepping on eggs," Henes says. "She is strong, but she is fragile, and it is up to us to keep her healthy and whole."

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