Meteorological vs Astronomical Seasons

Some of the most important dates in the calendar year, from a spiritual context, have long been the astronomical beginnings of the seasons. But did you know there are actually two ways in which we mark a season? There are meteorological seasons and then there are astronomical seasons.

I think it’s important to give a quick definition of each and show how they differ.

A meteorological season simply follows the calendar months and is marked by a grouping of three consecutive months. For example, meteorological fall is the time designated by September, October, and November. These groupings are traditionally based on the annual temperature cycle.

An astronomical season is marked as the time beginning at one of the four solstic and equinox days (winter solstice, spring equinox, summer solstice, fall equinox).

The exact date of the beginning of the seasons can vary from year to year, but you can roughly estimate that they will occur within a day or two of the following dates:

  • Winter Solstice - December 21st
  • Spring Equinox - March 21st
  • Summer Solstice - June 21st
  • Fall Equinox - September 21st

The astronomical seasons have long been tied to various mythologies around the world. Ancient myths would typically personify the sun’s journey through the astronomical calendar (i.e. it’s progression through the zodiacal signs) over the course of a year. Additionally, cultures have long celebrated the beginning of an astronomical season with various festivals such as Saturnalia, Midsummer, and others throughout the year.

While the astronomical calendar was definitely used to track time, it was also used as a teaching tool for spiritual development. Each season served as a prompt for contemplation focused on the journey of the soul and the cycles of life.