The word equinox means equal night and marks the day when the sun shines on the equator, making the length of the night equal to that of the day. The spring equinox takes place in March, and there is a similar autumn equinox in September; the solstices take place in June and December and mark the longest day and night of the year respectively. The vernal equinox is celebrated in many different countries and forms a part of the celebratory calendar of religions as different as Shintoism in Japan and Zoroastrianism in and around Iran. Because of its associations with spring, it may have its origins in pagan religions — in pagan celbrations, a man and a woman play out the roles of the God and Goddess of spring, planting seeds and carrying out courtship rituals. Depending on the time zones of the country the exact date of the equinox varies between March 19th to March 21st. It is also used by a number of countries’ calendars to mark the start of the New Year. The festival is sometimes called Ostera (or Eostre) after the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility. Many of the fun activities associated with the Christian easter are celebrated as part of the vernal equinox, including egg hunts and painting boiled eggs.