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Spring Festivals of Renewal and the Full Moon: this week on the Night Sky

The first day of Spring arrived yesterday when the Sun crossed the celestial equator into the northern celestial hemisphere, but have you noticed that the Spring festivals of renewal don’t happen right at that moment! These festivals only happen when the right observer comes along, and that observer is the first Full Moon of the season.

Every culture has a festival of renewal related to Spring, and in the Christian tradition, the Easter festival is observed on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Equinox.

What’s happening in the world of stars that makes it so!

The Moon comes to Full phase when it’s on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun, so while the Spring Sun is rising up among the stars of Pisces, the Spring Moon is opposite, in the region of the constellation Virgo.  

If you look for Full Moon on Wednesday night, it will be brilliant in its position between the star Spica, on its left, and the planet Jupiter on its right. Just to the right of the Moon, and closer to it than Jupiter, is the point where it crossed the celestial equator. Once the Moon goes over this crossing point, it is in the southern celestial hemisphere, so you could say that the way the Moon “witnesses” the return of the Sun every Spring is to literally step into another region of the sky, leaving the entire northern celestial hemisphere to the Sun.

So the early church leaders tied the festival of Easter to this dynamic relationship between Sun and Moon and Earth every Spring as a way to reveal that for them, Easter was a cosmic event happening on the stage of the Earth. And even though it has come to pass that the Earth is no longer regarded as the physical center of our planetary system or even the universe, by fixing the Easter this way, these church leaders were demonstrating the idea that what happens on Earth through the Mystery of Easter when Sun and Moon trade places in the celestial hemispheres is still central to the attention of a living cosmos.