Claim: A special property of the equinox allows eggs (or brooms) to be balanced on their ends that day.
Examples: [Collected via e-mail, February 2012]
Is it true that the equinox can cause a broom to obtain the right amount of gravitational pull to allow it to stand on its own or is it simply a balancing act?
Origins: Every year on the vernal equinox (on or about
The equinox, which marks the beginning of spring, has long held a special importance in human society. The first day of spring is the end of winter; the beginning of the season in which daylight again outlasts darkness and life springs anew. Flowers blossom, trees shoot out new leaves and branches, and animals give birth (or
The Chinese are often cited as having originated the practice of standing eggs on end during the equinox. Just as the equinox symbolically restores balance to the world by signalling its rebirth after a season of darkness, the equinox literally balances the day by dividing it into equal portions of darkness and light. If the symbol of fertility, eggs, could be balanced on end during a day equally divided between day and night, this was a sign that all nature was in harmony.
Nonetheless, the vernal equinox brings no special egg-balancing properties with it. Standing an egg on its end is something just about anyone can do any day of the year; the feat simply takes the right egg and a little trial and practice. Since the vast majority of people never see or try balancing eggs on their ends on any day other than the equinox, though, many of them come away from the experience believing that something special must have occurred on that particular day. As the Associated Press reported in 1987, however, scientific trial shows otherwise:
Finally a scientist has published research into the matter and concluded that yes indeed, he could balance an egg — actually several eggs — at the moment of the equinox.
But, on the other side of the coin, he was also able to do so at lots of other times.
"The upshot is that, as far as I can tell, there isn't too much relationship between astronomical phenomena and balancing eggs. It is basically a function of the shape of the egg and the surface," said astronomer Frank D. Ghigo.
Ghigo, of the University of Minnesota, decided to study egg balancing after receiving questions about it from members of the public who had read about the annual spring egg balancing festival in New York City.
Ghigo used four samples of a dozen eggs each, which he attempted to balance on their large ends on a Formica tabletop each day between
Ghigo found the eggs have many bumps and irregularities and with patience some of them could be made to balance virtually every day — while some eggs would simply never balance, on the equinox or otherwise.
He concluded that "the mood and persistence of the balancer has a major effect on the balancing rate. If one is impatient or nervous, the rate is low."
Over time, Ghigo found, the percentage of eggs he could balance improved, concluding "I think I got better, just through practice."
February 2012 saw the widespread promotion of a more recent wrinkle to the legend: pictures of brooms standing on end circulated via social media, accompanied by claims that the arrival of the equinox also brought special broom-balancing properties with it. Just like eggs, though, many brooms can be stood on their ends any old day of the year. The feat works best with newer brooms which have uniform, evenly cut bristles, with the angle of the bristle cut offsetting the lean angle of the broom:
Last updated: 19 March 2015
Brown, David. ""Balancing an Egg on Vernal Equinox: Fact or Fiction?" WCVB-TV [Boston] 19 March 2008. Cohen, Hennig and Tristram Potter Coffin. The Folklore of American Holidays. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1991 (p. 119). Olsen, Eddie. "The Scene." Philadelphia Inquirer. 21 March 1984. Schmid, Randolph E. "Equinox Returns and Eggs Keep Balance." The Lewiston Daily Sun. 19 September 1987.