LIANE HANSEN, host:
Yesterday was the vernal equinox, the first moment of spring, a time when light and dark are equal. NPR's Margot Adler went to an equinox ceremony that's been held in New York City for more than three decades.
MARGOT ADLER: Last year, Donna Henes greeted the spring equinox in a snowstorm at around four in the morning. 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.
But this Saturday was different. The first moment of spring came at 1:32 p.m. on a weekend in glorious 70-degree weather. So, more than 100 people were there at the South Street Seaport to participate in Henes's ceremony, egg standing.
Ms. DONNA HENES: You can whisper your wishes, you can sing your wishes, you don't have to say anything, you can just think your wishes. It's up to you, okay? But bless our circle.
ADLER: Henes has created an orange circle of cloth and she asked the children who have come to go around it four times - one for each solstice and equinox -and think good wishes. She blesses everyone and suddenly the moment has come.
Ms. HENES: You know what? It's not winter anymore.
(Soundbite of cheering)
ADLER: And everyone goes to a large basket where there are 360 eggs. The number kind of symbolizes the circumference of the planet, the circle of the year. Everyone takes an egg or two and tries to stand them upright.
Unidentified Woman: Here, you try, baby. You could do it. Yay.
ADLER: It's pretty easy. Soon almost all of the eggs are standing. Two of them cracked open. Rob, Heather and Abigail Lieberman from Robbinsville, New Jersey are making it a family affair.
Ms. HEATHER LIEBERMAN: You want to try mine?
Ms. ABIGAIL LIEBERMAN: This one's good.
Ms. H. LIEBERMAN: That one's really good. You want to do one more.
Mr. ROB LIEBERMAN: Oh, I got it, I got it. Woohoo. This is really neat. It's a good way to celebrate the first day of spring.
ADLER: 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 light and dark are equal.
Ms. HENES: We got them all standing.
(Soundbite of cheering)
ADLER: Now, scientists and school teachers will tell you that you can stand an egg upright at any time, that the spring and fall equinoxes don't have anything special about them. But Henes says this celebration is really about balance within, asking participants what balance might mean for them and for the planet.
Ms. HENES: I always ask people to please walk on the Earth as if they were stepping on eggs, so that she's strong but she's fragile and it's up to us to keep her healthy and whole.
ADLER: So, happy spring.
Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.
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